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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 $12,184 in 2003.1 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 $20,431. 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 force.2

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 2004, status dropouts accounted for 10.3 percent of the 36.5 million 16- through 24-year-olds in the United States in 2004 (table 1). Among all individuals in this age group, status dropout rates declined between 1972 and 2004, from 14.6 percent to 10.3 percent (figure 1).

The status dropout rate of Whites remained lower than that of Blacks in 2004, but over the past three decades the difference between Whites and Blacks has narrowed (figure 1 and table 1). The narrowing of the Black-White gap occurred during the 1980s, with no measurable change during the 1970s or between 1990 and 2004.

The percentage of Hispanics ages 1624 who were dropouts was consistently higher than that of Blacks and Whites throughout this 32-year period (19722004; 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 6.8 percent and the rates for Blacks declined from 21.3 to 11.8 percent. Between 1972 and 2004, Hispanic status dropout rates have fluctuated considerably but also have demonstrated a long-term decline, falling from 34.3 to 23.8 percent.3 Hispanics also experienced a downward trend in status dropout rates in the more recent period between 1990 and 2004.

Figure 1. Status dropout rates of 16- through 24-year-olds, by race/ethnicity: October 1972 through October 2004


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 1624 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 "more than one race" category is also included in the total in 2003 and 2004 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., and Chapman, C. (2004). Dropout Rates in the United States: 2001 (NCES 2005-046).
SOURCE: Figure 2 in Laird, J. DeBell, M. and Chapman, C. (2006). Dropout Rates in the United States: 2004 (2007-024). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

Table 1. Status dropout rates of 16- through 24-year-olds, by sex and race/ethnicity: through October 2004


      Race/ethnicity (percent)2
    Sex White, Black,  
Year1 Total (percent) Male Female non-Hispanic non-Hispanic Hispanic
197214.614.115.112.321.334.3
197314.113.714.511.622.233.5
197414.314.214.411.921.233.0
197513.913.314.511.422.929.2
197614.114.114.212.020.531.4
197714.114.513.811.919.833.0
197814.214.613.911.920.233.3
197914.615.014.212.021.133.8
198014.115.113.111.419.135.2
198113.915.112.811.418.433.2
198213.914.513.311.418.431.7
198313.714.912.511.218.031.6
198413.114.012.311.015.529.8
198512.613.411.810.415.227.6
198612.213.111.49.714.230.1
198712.713.312.210.414.128.6
198812.913.512.29.614.535.8
198912.613.611.79.413.933.0
199012.112.311.89.013.232.4
199112.513.011.98.913.635.3
199211.011.310.77.713.729.4
199311.011.210.97.913.627.5
199411.512.310.67.712.630.0
199512.012.211.78.612.130.0
199611.111.410.97.313.029.4
199711.011.910.17.613.425.3
199811.813.310.37.713.829.5
199911.211.910.57.312.628.6
200010.912.09.96.913.127.8
200110.712.29.37.310.927.0
200210.511.89.26.511.325.7
20039.911.38.46.310.923.5
200410.311.69.06.811.823.8
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. The "more than one race" category is also included in the total in 2003 and 2004 but not shown separately due to small sample size.
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. (2006). Dropout Rates in the United States: 2004 (2007-024). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

1 U.S. Census Bureau. (2005). Educational Attainment in the United States: 2004. Detailed Tables. Table 8.
2 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Household Data Annual Averages, Table 7, (2005).
3 The variable nature of the Hispanic status rate reflects, in part, the small sample of Hispanics in the Current Population Survey (CPS).

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