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Dropout Rates in the United States, 1996


          This is the ninth in a series of National Center for Education Statistics reports on high school dropout and completion rates. It presents data on rates in 1996, the most recent year for which data are available, and includes time series data on high school dropout and completion rates for the period 1972 through 1996. In addition to extending time series data reported in earlier years, this report examines the characteristics of high school dropouts and high school completers in 1996.

Event Dropout Rates

          Event dropout rates for 1996 describe the proportion of youths ages 15 through 24 years who dropped out of school in the 12 months preceding October 1996. Demographic data collected in the Current Population Survey (CPS) permit event dropout rates to be calculated across a variety of individual characteristics, including race, sex, region of residence, and income level.

  • Five out of every 100 young adults enrolled in high school in 1995 left school before October of 1996 without successfully completing a high school program. This estimate of 5 percent is on a par with those reported over the last 10 years (figure A).
  • A larger percentage of Hispanic students, compared with white students, leave school short of completing a high school program. Although the 6.7 percent rate for black students falls between the rate of 9.0 percent for Hispanics and 4.1 percent for whites, the differences are not significant (table 1).
  • In 1996, young adults living in families with incomes in the lowest 20 percent of all family incomes were five times as likely as their peers from families in the top 20 percent of the income distribution to drop out of high school. Two-thirds of this gap was due to differences between students in the lowest and middle income groups (table 1).
  • Students who remain in school after the majority of their age cohort has left drop out at higher rates than their younger peers (table 2).
  • Although dropout rates were highest among students age 19 or older, about three-fourths of the current year dropouts were ages 15 through 18; moreover, 43 percent of the 1996 dropouts were 15 through 17 years of age (table 2 ).

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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education