Dropout Rates in the United States: 2001

Christopher D. Chapman




Event Dropout Rates

Event dropout rates indicate the percentage of students who dropped out of school over a relatively short period of time. They are useful for studying the possible effects of particular phenomena, or events, on the propensity to drop out. Such events might include the introduction of new education policies or changes in economic conditions.

The event dropout rates presented in this report estimate the percentage of high school students who dropped out of high school between the beginning of one school year and the beginning of the next. Using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), event dropout rates are presented that describe the percentage of youth ages 15 through 24 who dropped out of grades 10–12. Demographic data collected in the CPS permit event dropout rates to be calculated across various individual characteristics, including race/ethnicity, sex, region of residence, and income level.

  • Five out of every 100 students enrolled in high school in October 2000 left school before October 2001 without successfully completing a high school program. The percentage of students who were event dropouts decreased from 1972 through 1987.1 However, despite some year-to-year fluctuations, the percentage of students dropping out of school each year has stayed relatively flat since 1987 (table 1 and figure A).

  • From 1990 through 2001, between 347,000 and 544,000 students in grades 10 through 12 left school each year without successfully completing a high school program (table A3).

  • In 2001, students living in low-income families were six times more likely than their peers in high-income families to drop out of high school over the one-year period of October 2000 to 2001 (table 1). (Low income is defined as the lowest 20 percent of all family incomes, while high income refers to the top 20 percent of the income distribution.)

  • About three-fourths (77.3 percent) of event dropouts in 2001 were ages 15 through 18, and about two-fifths (42.5 percent) were ages 15 through 17 (table 1).

In order to look at variation in event dropout rates at the state level, a second data source is necessary. Using data from the Common Core of Data (CCD), event dropout rates are presented that describe the percentage of public high school students who dropped out of grades 9–12 in the 2000-01 school year (table 2).

  • Among those states for which CCD dropout data are available, event dropout rates for public high school students ranged from 2.2 percent to 10.9 percent.

1The statistical significance of time trends noted in this report were assessed using weighted least squares regressions. Comparisons among groups in 2001 were assessed using the Student’s t-test, without Bonferroni adjustment (for number of comparisons). In previous reports, Bonferroni adjustments had been applied. This change in statistical testing may lead to tests being significant in this report that were noted as not significant in previous reports. All changes or differences noted in this report are statistically significant at the p < 0.05 level. For a full discussion of the statistical methods used, see appendix C.