The national event dropout rate presented here is based on data from the CPS and is an estimate of the percentage of both private and public high school students who left high school between the beginning of one school year and the beginning of the next without earning a high school diploma or its equivalent (e.g., a GED). Specifically, the rate describes the percentage of youth ages 15 through 24 in the United States who dropped out of grades 10–12 from either public or private schools in the 12 months between one October and the next (e.g., October 2006 to October 2007).9 The measure provides information about the rate at which U.S. high school students are leaving school without a successful outcome. As such, it can be used to study student experiences in the U.S. secondary school system in a given year. It is not well suited for studying how many people in the country lack a high school credential irrespective of whether they attended U.S. high schools, nor does it provide a picture of the dropout problem more generally because it only measures how many students dropped out in a single year, and students may reenter the school system after that time. More detail about the definition and computation of the event dropout rate and other rates in this report can be found in appendix A.
Students from low-, middle-, and high-income families experienced an overall decline in event dropout rates during the three-decade period of the mid-1970s through 2007 (figure 1 and table 4).All three groups of students experienced declines in event dropout rates from 1975 through 1990. Those from low-income families had rates that fell from almost 15.7 percent to approximately 9.5 percent. Students from middle-income families had rates fall from 6.0 percent to 4.3 percent and those from high-income families had rates fall from 2.6 percent to 1.1 percent. From 1990 to 1995, students from low-income families experienced an upward trend in rates from 9.5 percent to 13.3 percent, while their peers from middle- and high-income families experienced no significant change. In the last 12 years (1995–2007), the event rates for all three income groups trended downward falling from 13.3 percent to 8.8 percent for students from low-income families, 5.7 percent to 3.5 percent for students from middle-income families, and 2.0 percent to 0.9 percent for students from high-income families.
9 Data about 9th grade dropouts are not available
in the Current Population Survey (see appendix A for more
information). The state event dropout rates for public high school students presented
later in this report are based on the Common Core of Data, which includes 9th-graders.
10 Trend analyses were conducted using regressions. See appendix A for more details.
11 The 2007 tables report data for four racial/ethnic categories: White (non-Hispanic), Black (non-Hispanic), Asian/Pacific Islander (non-Hispanic), and Hispanic. The first three categories consist of individuals who identified as only one race, and who did not identify as Hispanic. A fourth category consists of Hispanics of all races and racial combinations. Because of small sample sizes, American Indians/Alaska Natives and those who identified themselves as being two or more races, but not Hispanic, are included in the total but are not shown separately. For simplicity, the terms "Black," "Hispanic," and "Asian/Pacific Islander" are used in the text of this report without the "(non-Hispanic)" label.
12 The trend analyses conducted to examine this three-and-a-half decade period are based on annual rate estimates for each year from 1972 through 2007. Separate trend analyses were also conducted for each racial/ethnic group separately for trends across the three shorter time periods indicated in the bullet: 1972–1990, 1990–1995, and 1995–2007. Because of small sample sizes for many of the earlier years, reliable trend analyses could not be conducted for Asians/Pacific Islanders and American Indians/Alaska Natives.
13 "Low income" is defined here as the lowest 20 percent of all family incomes, while "high income" refers to the top 20 percent of all family incomes. In 2007, low-income families included those with $18,390 or less in family income, while high-income families included those with $85,500 or more in family income. For respondents missing data for family income (19.7 percent of the weighted sample in table 1), cold-deck procedures were used to impute data.
14 Some states report using an alternative 1-year period from one July to the next. Rates for those states are presented because event dropout rates based on the July-to-July calendar are comparable to those calculated using an October-to-October calendar (Winglee et al. 2000).