Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 19722008

NCES 2011-012
December 2010


For dropout and completion rate estimates, please see the discussions above and table A-1.

Age of the subject at the time of the interview.
Family income.
In the Current Population Survey (CPS), family income is derived from a single question asked of the household respondent. Income includes money income from all sources including jobs, business, interest, rent, and social security payments. The income of nonrelatives living in the household is excluded, but the income of all family members 14 years old and older, including those temporarily living away, is included. Family income refers to receipts over a 12-month period.

There are several issues that affect the interpretation of dropout rates by family income using the CPS. First, it is possible that the family income of the students at the time they dropped out was somewhat different from their family income at the time of the CPS interview. Furthermore, family income is derived from a single question asked of the household respondent in the October CPS. In some cases, there are persons ages 15–24 living in the household who are unrelated to the household respondent, yet whose family income is defined as the income of the family of the household respondent. Therefore, the current family income of the respondent may not accurately reflect that person's family background. In particular, some of the young adults in the 15- through 24-year age range do not live in a family unit with a parent present.

GED, or General Educational Development.
General Educational Development (GED) tests are standardized tests designed to measure the skills and knowledge that students normally acquire by the end of high school. The tests are developed by the American Council on Education's GED Testing Service. People who pass may receive a high school equivalency credential.
Geographic regions.
There are four Census regions used in this report: Northeast, Midwest, South, and West. The Northeast consists of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The Midwest consists of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. The South consists of Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. The West consists of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Hawaii.
Recency of immigration.
Recency of immigration was derived from a set of questions on the CPS survey inquiring about the country of birth of the reference person and his or her mother and father. From these questions, the following three categories were constructed: (1) born outside the 50 states and the District of Columbia, (2) first generation, and (3) second generation or higher. First generation is defined as individuals who were born in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia, but who had at least one parent who was not. Second generation or higher persons are individuals who themselves, as well as both of their parents, were born in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. These three categories were subdivided using the variable for the subject's race/ethnicity (please see below) so that there were six categories: the three immigration categories plus a Hispanic and non-Hispanic category for each of the three immigration categories.
This variable is constructed from two variables in the CPS. One asks about the subject's ethnic background and the second asks about the subject's race. Those reported as being of Hispanic background on the ethnic background question are categorized as Hispanic irrespective of race. Non-Hispanics are then categorized by race. Beginning in 2003, respondents were able to indicate more than one race. Those who indicated more than one race and who did not indicate that they were Hispanic were included in a category labeled "more than one race."
Sex of the subject.