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Dropout Rates

Dropping out of high school is related to a number of negative outcomes. For example, the median income of high school dropouts age 18 and over was $20,100 in 20051. By comparison, the median income of those age 18 and over who completed their education with a high school credential (including a General Educational Development certificate, or GED) was $29,700. Dropouts are also less likely to be in the labor force than those with a high school credential or higher, and are more likely to be unemployed if they are in the labor force2.

The status dropout rate measures the percentage of individuals who are not enrolled in high school and who do not have a high school credential, irrespective of when they dropped out. In October 2005, status dropouts accounted for 9.4 percent of the 36.8 million 16- through 24-year-olds in the United States in 2005. Among all individuals in this age group, status dropout rates trended downward during the overall period between 1972 and 2005, from 14.6 percent to 9.4 percent. (figure 1).

The 2005 status dropout rate of Asians/Pacific Islanders (2.9 percent) was the lowest among racial/ethnic groups considered in this report, followed by the status dropout rate of Whites (6.0 percent). The Black status dropout rate was 10.4 percent, followed by the Hispanic rate at 22.4 percent.

Figure 1. Status dropout rates of 16- through 24-year-olds, by race/ethnicity: October 1972 through October 2005


Status dropout rates of 16- through 24-year-olds, by race/ethnicity: October 1972 through October 2004

NOTE: The status dropout rate indicates the percentage of 16–24 year-olds who are not enrolled in high school and who lack a high school diploma or equivalent credential such as a General Education Development (GED) certificate. Beginning in 2003, respondents were able to identify themselves as being more than one race. The 2003 and 2004 categories for White, non-Hispanic and Black, non-Hispanic contain only respondents who indicated just one race. The Hispanic category includes Hispanics of all races and racial combinations. Due to small sample size for some or all of the years shown in the figure, American Indians/Alaska Natives and Asian/Pacific Islanders are included the totals but not shown separately. The variable nature of the Hispanic status rates reflects, in part, the small sample size of Hispanics in the CPS. Estimates beginning with 1987 reflect new editing procedures for cases with missing data on school enrollment items. Estimates beginning with 1992 reflect new wording of the educational attainment item. Estimates beginning with 1994 reflect changes due to newly instituted computer-assisted interviewing. For details about changes in CPS over time, please see Kaufman, P., Alt, M., and Chapman, C. (2004). Dropout Rates in the United States: 2001 (NCES 2005-046).
SOURCE: Figure 2 in Laird, J., Kienzl, G., DeBell, M. and Chapman, C. (2007). Dropout Rates in the United States: 2005 (2007-059). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

Since 1972 the difference between the status dropout rates of Whites and Blacks has narrowed. This narrowing of the gap occurred during the 1980s, with no measurable change during the 1970s or between 1990 and 2005. Overall, White and Black status dropout rates have fallen by about half since 1972; the rates for Whites fell from 12.3 to 6.0 percent and the rates for Blacks declined from 21.3 to 10.4 percent.

The percentage of Hispanics ages 16–24 who were dropouts was consistently higher than that of Blacks and Whites throughout this 33-year period (1972–2005; figure 1 and table 1). Between 1972 and 1990, Hispanic status dropout rates fluctuated considerably, but since 1990 they have demonstrated a downward trend, falling from 32.4 percent to 22.4 percent.

Table 1. Status dropout rates of 16- through 24-year-olds, by sex and race/ethnicity: October 1972 through October 2005


Year1 Total
(percent)
      Race/ethnicity (percent)2
Sex (percent) White,
non–
Hispanic
Black,
non–
Hispanic
Hispanic
Male Female
                 
1972 14.6   14.1 15.1   12.3 21.3 34.3
1973 14.1   13.7 14.5   11.6 22.2 33.5
1974 14.3   14.2 14.4   11.9 21.2 33.0
1975 13.9   13.3 14.5   11.4 22.9 29.2
1976 14.1   14.1 14.2   12.0 20.5 31.4
                 
1977 14.1   14.5 13.8   11.9 19.8 33.0
1978 14.2   14.6 13.9   11.9 20.2 33.3
1979 14.6   15.0 14.2   12.0 21.1 33.8
1980 14.1   15.1 13.1   11.4 19.1 35.2
1981 13.9   15.1 12.8   11.4 18.4 33.2
                 
1982 13.9   14.5 13.3   11.4 18.4 31.7
1983 13.7   14.9 12.5   11.2 18.0 31.6
1984 13.1   14.0 12.3   11.0 15.5 29.8
1985 12.6   13.4 11.8   10.4 15.2 27.6
1986 12.2   13.1 11.4   9.7 14.2 30.1
                 
1987 12.7   13.3 12.2   10.4 14.1 28.6
1988 12.9   13.5 12.2   9.6 14.5 35.8
1989 12.6   13.6 11.7   9.4 13.9 33.0
1990 12.1   12.3 11.8   9.0 13.2 32.4
1991 12.5   13.0 11.9   8.9 13.6 35.3
                 
1992 11.0   11.3 10.7   7.7 13.7 29.4
1993 11.0   11.2 10.9   7.9 13.6 27.5
1994 11.5   12.3 10.6   7.7 12.6 30.0
1995 12.0   12.2 11.7   8.6 12.1 30.0
1996 11.1   11.4 10.9   7.3 13.0 29.4
                 
1997 11.0   11.9 10.1   7.6 13.4 25.3
1998 11.8   13.3 10.3   7.7 13.8 29.5
1999 11.2   11.9 10.5   7.3 12.6 28.6
2000 10.9   12.0 9.9   6.9 13.1 27.8
2001 10.7   12.2 9.3   7.3 10.9 27.0
                 
2002 10.5   11.8 9.2   6.5 11.3 25.7
2003 9.9   11.3 8.4   6.3 10.9 23.5
2004 10.3   11.6 9.0   6.8 11.8 23.8
2005 9.4   10.8 8.0   6.0 10.4 22.4
1 Estimates beginning in 1987 reflect new editing procedures for cases with missing data on school enrollment items. Estimates beginning in 1992 reflect new wording of the educational attainment item. Estimates beginning in 1994 reflect changes due to newly instituted computer-assisted interviewing. For details about changes in the Current Population Survey (CPS) over time, please see Kaufman, P., Alt, M., and Chapman, C. (2004). Dropout Rates in the United States: 2001 (NCES 2005-046).
2 Beginning in 2003, respondents were able to identify themselves as being “more than one race.” The 2003 White, non-Hispanic and Black, non-Hispanic categories consist of individuals who considered themselves to be one race and who did not identify as Hispanic. The Hispanic category includes Hispanics of all races and racial combinations. Due to small sample size for some or all of the years shown in the table, American Indians/Alaska Natives and Asian/Pacific Islanders are included the totals but not shown separately.
NOTE: The status dropout rate indicates the percentage of 16- through 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in high school and who lack a high school credential. High school credential includes a high school diploma or equivalent credential such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate.
SOURCE: Table 8 in Laird, J. DeBell, M. and Chapman, C. (2007). Dropout Rates in the United States: 2005 (2007-059). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.


1 These are not all high school dropouts: 0.6 percent of persons ages 18 through 65 were enrolled in high school in 2005 (U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey CPS, October 2005).
2 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2006). Tabulations retrieved March 30, 2007, from http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat7.pdf.

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