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Chapter 3. Employment-Related Characteristics

Indicator 28. Labor Force Participation of High School Dropouts

Dropping out of high school can lead to several negative outcomes. For instance, among adults in the labor force, there is a higher percentage of unemployment among dropouts than among adults who have a high school credential (U.S. Department of Labor 2011). In 2009, about 383,000 youth and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 dropped out of high school during the previous 12 months. Of these dropouts, about 48 percent (or 186,000) were in the civilian labor force, meaning exclusive of the military, while 52 percent (or 198,000) were not. Among the dropouts in the civilian labor force in 2009, about 55 percent were unemployed.

The number of high school dropouts declined from 738,000 in 1980 to 383,000 in 2009. Between 1980 and 2002, the labor force participation rate for high school dropouts fluctuated, ranging between 64 and 68 percent. However, between 2002 and 2009, the participation rate declined 20 percentage points (from 68 to 48 percent).

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