Skip Navigation
small NCES header image
Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
NCES 2010-015
July 2010

Indicator 18. Dropout Rates and Graduation Rates

Young adults who do not finish high school are more likely to be unemployed than those who complete high school and if they do find employment they may earn less than high school graduates. (see indicators 28 and 29). The status dropout rate represents the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school credential (either a diploma or an equivalency credential such as a General Educational Development [GED] certificate). In the first part of this indicator, status dropout rates are estimated using both the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the American Community Survey (ACS). The CPS provides several decades of historical trends on status dropouts that are not available from the ACS. However, the ACS allows for more detailed comparisons of status dropout rates by race/ethnicity and nativity. And unlike the CPS, the ACS includes institutionalized persons, such as those who are incarcerated.

The second part of this indicator provides estimates on the percentage of public school students who are graduating on time with a regular diploma. To do so, it uses the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate—an estimate of the percentage of a freshman class that receives a regular diploma within four years of entering high school.

18.1. Dropouts

Between 1997 and 2007, the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who were status dropouts decreased from 11 to 9 percent. Status dropout rates and changes in these rates over time differ by race/ethnicity. In 1997, a higher percentage of Hispanics were status dropouts (25 percent) than were Blacks (13 percent), Whites (8 percent), Asians/Pacific Islanders (7 percent), and American Indians/Alaska Natives (15 percent). The percentages of Blacks and American Indians/Alaska Natives who were status dropouts were also higher than the respective percentages of Whites and Asians/Pacific Islanders. In 2007, a similar pattern was evident: a higher percentage of Hispanics were status dropouts (21 percent) than Blacks (8 percent), Asians/Pacific Islanders (6 percent), and Whites (5 percent), and the percentages of Blacks and American Indians/Alaska Natives (19 percent) who were status dropouts were higher than the percentages of Whites and Asians/Pacific Islanders who were status dropouts. No measurable differences in status dropout rates were found between Hispanics and American Indians/Alaska Natives in 2007.

In general, the status dropout rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics declined between 1997 and 2007. However, for each year during that period, the status dropout rate was lower for Whites and Blacks than for Hispanics. The rate for Asians/Pacific Islanders was also lower than the rates for Hispanics and Blacks between 1997 and 2007. During that period, the gap between the status dropout rates of Blacks and Whites narrowed. While the gap between the status dropout rates of Hispanics and Whites was larger in 1998 than in 1997, this gap narrowed between 1998 and 2007.

View Table View Figure 18.1

The decreases in status dropout rates that were found for males and females were similar to the decreases in overall status dropout rates. For example, status dropout rates were lower in 2007 than in 1997 for males (10 percent vs. 12 percent) and for females (8 percent vs. 10 percent). In addition, the rates varied by race/ethnicity for each sex. A higher percentage of Hispanic males (25 percent) were status dropouts than were Black males (8 percent) and White and Asian/Pacific Islander males (6 percent each) in 2007. Similarly, a higher percentage of Hispanic females (18 percent) were status dropouts than were Black (9 percent), White (4 percent), and Asian/Pacific Islander (6 percent) females. Overall, males had a higher status dropout rate than females for each year between 1997 and 2007. In addition, in 2007, White and Hispanic males had higher status dropout rates (6 and 25 percent, respectively) than their female counterparts (4 and 18 percent, respectively).

Status dropout rates for White and Black males and White, Black, and Hispanic females declined between 1997 and 2007. Comparing rates in 1997 with those in 2007, there was no measurable change in the gap between White males and females or the gap between Black males and females. Despite apparent differences in the rates of Hispanic males and females, no measurable change in the gap was found between 1997 and 2007.

View Table View Table 18.1a

Top

Snapshot of Hispanic and Asian Subgroups: Dropout Rate by Nativity

The status dropout rate includes all 16- to 24-year-old dropouts, regardless of when they last attended school, as well as individuals who may never have attended school in the United States and who may never have earned a high school credential. Therefore, examining status dropout rates for those born within the United States (refers to the 50 states and the District of Columbia) may provide a more accurate measure of those who have attended U.S. schools. Based on data from the ACS, the status dropout rate in 2007 was higher for Hispanics born in the United States (11 percent) than for Whites (6 percent), Asians (2 percent), and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders (6 percent) born in the United States. However, the status dropout rate for Hispanics born in the United States was lower than the rate for American Indians/Alaska Natives born in the United States, and no measurable differences were found between Hispanics and Blacks born in the United States.

Overall, the status dropout rate for 16- to 24-year-olds born in the United States was lower than the rate for their peers born outside the United States (8 vs. 21 percent). Hispanics, Asians, and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders born in the United States had lower status dropout rates than their counterparts born outside the United States, whereas Whites, Blacks, and American Indians/Alaskan Natives born in the United States had higher status dropout rates than their counterparts born outside the United States. Higher dropout rates among Hispanics born outside the United States partially account for the high dropout rates among all Hispanic young adults. For Hispanic 16- to 24-year-olds who were born outside the United States, the 2007 status dropout rate was 34 percent—higher than the rate for Hispanics born within the United States. (11 percent).

Among Hispanic subgroups, Other Central Americans (29 percent) and Salvadorans (26 percent) in the United States had the highest percentages of young adults who were status dropouts, followed by Mexicans (22 percent), Puerto Ricans (15 percent), Dominicans (13 percent), and Other Hispanics or Latinos (12 percent). Cubans (6 percent) and South Americans (8 percent) had the lowest percentages among all Hispanic subgroups of young adults who were status dropouts. Among Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Salvadorans, Other Central Americans, South Americans, and Other Hispanics or Latinos, the status dropout rate was higher for young adults who were born outside the United States than for those who were born in the United States.

Among Asian subgroups, the status dropout rate for young adults in the Other Asian subgroup (including Cambodian, Hmong, and other groups) (7 percent) was higher than the rates for Indian (1 percent), Filipino (1 percent), Korean (1 percent), Chinese (3 percent), Japanese (3 percent), and Vietnamese young adults (4 percent). Indian, Chinese, Filipino, and Other Asian young adults who were born outside the United States had higher status dropout rates than did those born in the United States of the same subgroups.

View Table View Table 18.1b

Top

Snapshot: Dropout Rates for Institutionalized Youth and Young Adults by Race/Ethnicity

The 2007 ACS included persons residing in institutionalized and noninstitutionalized group quarters. Institutionalized group quarters include adult and juvenile correctional facilities, nursing facilities, and other health care facilities. Noninstitutionalized group quarters include college and university housing, military quarters, and other noninstitutional facilities such as quarters for workers and religious groups and temporary shelters for the homeless. This section focuses on status dropout rates for institutionalized 16- to 24-year-olds. Comparisons are made between institutionalized 16- to 24-year-olds and their peers residing in both households and noninstitutionalized group quarters.

In 2007, the status dropout rate was 46 percent for institutionalized youth and young adults and 9 percent for their noninstitutionalized agemates. Institutionalized Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians/Alaska Natives had higher status dropout rates than their noninstitutionalized peers. Among the institutionalized, Hispanics (52 percent) had a higher status dropout rate than Whites (40 percent), Asians (38 percent), and American Indians/Alaska Natives (38 percent). Additionally, the rate for institutionalized Blacks (50 percent) was higher than the rate for institutionalized Whites. Similarly, looking at noninstitutionalized youth and young adults, the status dropout rate for Hispanics (19 percent) was higher than the rates for Whites (6 percent), Blacks (10 percent), Asians (3 percent), Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (7 percent), and American Indians/Alaska Natives (15 percent).

View Table View Table 18.1c

Top

18.2. Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates

The averaged freshman graduation rate (AFGR) estimates the percentage of an incoming freshman class that graduates with a regular high school diploma 4 years later. The averaged freshman enrollment count is the average of the number of 8th-graders enrolled 5 years prior to graduation, the number of 9th-graders enrolled 4 years prior, and the number of 10th-graders enrolled 3 years prior. The intent of this averaging is to account for the relatively high rate of grade retention in the freshman year. Of the 3.9 million students estimated to have entered public high school in the 2003–04 school year (data not shown), 2.9 million, or 74 percent, graduated in 2006-07. However, the numbers vary across race/ethnicities. The AFGR was 91 percent for Asian students and 80 percent for White students; in contrast, it was 60 percent for Blacks, 62 percent for Hispanics, and 61 percent for American Indians/Alaska Natives.

View Table View Figure 18.2
View Table View Table 18.2

Top


Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey

or

No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.
National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education