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Dropout Rates

Dropping out of high school is related to a number of negative outcomes. For example, the average income of persons ages 18 through 65 who had not completed high school was roughly $21,000 in 2006. 1 By comparison, the average income of persons ages 18 through 65 who completed their education with a high school credential, including a General Educational Development (GED) certificate was over $31,400. 2 Among adults age 25 and older, a lower percentage of dropouts are in the labor force compared with adults who earned a high school credential. Among adults in the labor force, a higher percentage of dropouts are unemployed compared with adults who earned a high school credential.3

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. Status dropouts accounted for 9.3 percent of the 37 million 16- through 24-year-olds in the United States in 2006. Among all individuals in this age group, status dropout rates trended downward between 1972 and 2006, from 14.6 percent to 9.3 percent (figure 1).

The 2006 status dropout rate of Asians/Pacific Islanders (3.6 percent) was the lowest among racial/ethnic groups considered in this report, followed by the status dropout rate of Whites (5.8 percent). The Black status dropout rate was 10.7 percent, followed by the Hispanic rate at 22.1 percent.

Figure 1. Status dropout rates of 16- through 24-year-olds, by race/ethnicity: October 1972 through October 2006


Status dropout rates of 16- through 24-year-olds, by race/ethnicity: October 1972 through October 2006

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 credentials include high school diplomas and equivalent credentials, such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. Beginning in 2003, respondents were able to identify themselves as being more than one race. The 2003 through 2006 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 sizes for some or all of the years shown in the figure, American Indians/Alaska Natives and Asians/Pacific Islanders are included the totals but not shown separately. The "more than one race" category is also included in the total in 2003 through 2006 but not shown separately due to small sample size. 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. N., and Chapman, C. (2004). Dropout Rates in the United States: 2001 (NCES 2005-046). U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S.Government Printing Office.
SOURCE: Figure 2 in Laird, J., Cataldi, E.F., KewalRamani, A., and. Chapman, C. (2008). Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2006 (2008-053). 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 2006.

The percentage of Hispanics ages 1624 who were dropouts was consistently higher than that of Blacks and Whites throughout this 34-year period of 19722006 (figure 1 and table 1). White and Black status dropout rates have fallen by about half since 1972; the rates for Whites fell from 12.3 to 5.8 percent and the rates for Blacks declined from 21.3 to 10.7 percent. 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 22.1 percent.

Table 1. Status dropout rates of 16- through 24-year-olds, by sex and race/ethnicity: October 1972 through October 2006


Year2 Total
(percent)
      Race/ethnicity (percent)1
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
2006 9.3   10.3 8.3   5.8 10.7 22.1
1 Beginning in 2003, respondents were able to identify themselves as being "more than one race." The 2003 through 2006 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 sizes for some or all of the years shown in the table, American Indians/Alaska Natives and Asians/Pacific Islanders are included in the totals but not shown separately. The "more than one race" category is also included in the total in 2003 through 2006 but not shown separately due to small sample size.
2 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.N., and Chapman, C. (2004). Dropout Rates in the United States: 2001 (NCES 2005-046). U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
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 credentials include high school diplomas and equivalent credentials, such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate.
SOURCE: Table 8 in Laird, J., Cataldi, E.F., KewalRamani, A., Chapman, C. (2008). Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2006 (2008-053). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved November 15, 2008.


1 These are not all high school dropouts: 1.1 percent of persons ages 18 through 65 were enrolled in high school in 2006 (U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey [CPS], October 2006).
2 U.S. Census Bureau. (2007). Educational Attainment—People 18 Years Old and Over, by Total Money Earnings in 2006, Age, Race, Hispanic Origin, and Sex. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved September 20, 2007.
3 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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