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Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States

Indicator 3: Status Dropout Rate (ACS)

This indicator presents status dropout rates based on data from the American Community Survey (ACS). The status dropout rates discussed here differ from the status dropout rates discussed in indicator 2, which are based on data from the Current Population Survey (CPS). CPS data have been collected annually for decades, allowing for the analysis of long-term trends for the civilian, noninstitutionalized population. ACS data are available only for more recent years, but cover a broader population. In addition to the civilian, noninstitutionalized population covered by CPS, the ACS also includes the active duty military population and individuals residing in institutionalized group quarters (such as correctional or nursing facilities). The ACS has a larger number of respondents than the CPS; the larger number of respondents allows for comparisons of status dropout rates among smaller population subgroups.

The status dropout rate is the number of 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school credential as a percentage of the total number of the 16- to 24-year-old population. The status dropout rate is higher than the event dropout rate (see Indicator 1) because the status dropout rate includes all dropouts in a particular age range, regardless of when or where they last attended school, including individuals who may have never attended school in the United States.1

Total status dropout rates

In 2016, the ACS status dropout rate for all 16- to 24-year-olds was 5.8 percent (figure 3.1 and table 3.1). The rate was 5.5 percent for the noninstitutionalized population, which includes individuals living in households and noninstitutionalized group quarters, such as college and university housing, military quarters, facilities for workers and religious groups, and temporary shelters for the homeless. In contrast, the rate was 33.7 percent for the institutionalized population, which includes individuals in adult and juvenile correctional facilities, nursing facilities, and other health care facilities.


Figure 3.1. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by selected characteristics: 2016

Figure 3.1. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by selected characteristics: 2016

1 Includes data from respondents who wrote in some other race that was not included as an option on the questionnaire.
2 Persons living in households as well as persons living in noninstitutionalized group quarters. Noninstitutionalized group quarters include college and university housing, military quarters, facilities for workers and religious groups, and temporary shelters for the homeless.
3 Persons living in institutionalized group quarters, including adult and juvenile correctional facilities, nursing facilities, and other health care facilities.
4 United States refers to the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Marianas.
NOTE: “Status” dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who received an alternative credential such as a GED are counted as high school completers. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population of 16- to 24-year-olds residing within the United States. Estimates may differ from those based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) because of differences in survey design and target populations.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2016. See table 3.1.


Status dropout rates by race/ethnicity

The ACS status dropout rate in 2016 was higher for 16- to 24-year-olds who were American Indian/Alaska Native (11.0 percent), Hispanic (9.1 percent), Black (7.0 percent), and Pacific Islander (6.9 percent) than for those who were of Two or more races (4.8 percent), White (4.5 percent), and Asian (2.0 percent; figure 3.1 and table 3.1). The ACS status dropout rates for those who were of Two or more races and for those who were White were also higher than the rate for Asian individuals.

Similar to the overall population, status dropout rates within racial/ethnic groups were higher for 16- to 24-year-olds in institutionalized settings than in noninstitutionalized settings (figure 3.2 and table 3.1). The institutionalized population status dropout rate was higher than the noninstitutionalized population rate for individuals who were White (26.0 vs. 4.3 percent), Black (38.0 vs. 6.1 percent), Hispanic (37.5 vs. 8.7 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native (44.5 vs. 10.4 percent), and of Two or more races (28.4 vs. 4.5 percent).2


Figure 3.2. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by race/ethnicity and noninstitutionalized or institutionalized status: 2016

Figure 3.2. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by race/ethnicity and noninstitutionalized or institutionalized status: 2016

‡ Reporting standards not met. Either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coefficient of variation (CV) is 50 percent or greater.
1 Persons living in households as well as persons living in noninstitutionalized group quarters. Noninstitutionalized group quarters include college and university housing, military quarters, facilities for workers and religious groups, and temporary shelters for the homeless.
2 Persons living in institutionalized group quarters, including adult and juvenile correctional facilities, nursing facilities, and other health care facilities.
NOTE: “Status” dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who received an alternative credential such as a GED are counted as high school completers. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population of 16- to 24-year-olds residing within the United States. Estimates may differ from those based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) because of differences in survey design and target populations.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2016. See table 3.1.


Figure 3.3. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by selected Hispanic subgroups: 2016

Figure 3.3. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by selected Hispanic subgroups: 2016

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coefficient of variation (CV) is 50 percent or greater.
1 If the estimation procedure were repeated many times, 95 percent of the calculated confidence intervals would contain the true status dropout rate for the population group.
2 Includes other Central American subgroups not shown separately.
NOTE: “Status” dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who received an alternative credential such as a GED are counted as high school completers. Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population of 16- to 24-year-olds residing within the United States. Estimates may differ from those based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) because of differences in survey design and target populations.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2016. See table 3.1.


Figure 3.4. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by selected Asian subgroups: 2016

Figure 3.4. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by selected Asian subgroups: 2016

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coefficient of variation (CV) is 50 percent or greater.
1 If the estimation procedure were repeated many times, 95 percent of the calculated confidence intervals would contain the true status dropout rate for the population group.
2 Includes Taiwanese.
3 In addition to the subgroups shown, also includes Sri Lankan.
4 Consists of Indonesian and Malaysian.
NOTE: “Status” dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who received an alternative credential such as a GED are counted as high school completers. Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population of 16- to 24-year-olds residing within the United States. Estimates may differ from those based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) because of differences in survey design and target populations.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2016. See table 3.1.


Status dropout rates by Hispanic and Asian subgroups

While this indicator presents overall high school status dropout rates for Hispanic and Asian 16- to 24-year-olds, there is much diversity within each of these groups. ACS data on status dropout rates are available for many specific Asian and Hispanic subgroups, including, for example, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, and Puerto Rican 16- to 24-year-olds. ACS data were not collected for White or Black subgroups.

In 2016, the total status dropout rate for Hispanic 16- to 24-year-olds was 9.1 percent, while status dropout rates by Hispanic subgroup ranged from 2.4 to 22.9 percent (figure 3.3 and table 3.1). Status dropout rates for Guatemalan (22.9 percent), Honduran (16.7 percent), and Salvadoran individuals (13.3 percent) were higher than the total Hispanic status dropout rate. In contrast, status dropout rates for Spaniard (6.5 percent), Ecuadorian (6.1 percent), Cuban (5.4 percent), Venezuelan (3.3 percent), Colombian (2.9 percent), and Peruvian individuals (2.4 percent) were lower than the total Hispanic status dropout rate. The status dropout rates for Nicaraguan, Dominican, Mexican, and Puerto Rican individuals were not measurably different from the total Hispanic rate.3

The total status dropout rate for Asian 16- to 24-year-olds was 2.0 percent in 2016 (figure 3.4 and table 3.1). The status dropout rate for Burmese individuals (29.7 percent) was higher than the total Asian rate. Status dropout rates for individuals of Chinese4 (0.8 percent) and Korean (0.7 percent) descent were lower than the total Asian rate. Status dropout rates for the remaining Asian subgroups were not measurably different from the total Asian rate.5


Figure 3.5. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by race/ethnicity and sex: 2016

Figure 3.5. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by race/ethnicity and sex: 2016

1 Includes data from respondents who wrote in some other race that was not included as an option on the questionnaire.
NOTE: “Status” dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who received an alternative credential such as a GED are counted as high school completers. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population of 16- to 24-year-olds residing within the United States. Estimates may differ from those based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) because of differences in survey design and target populations.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2016. See table 3.1.


Status dropout rates by sex and race/ethnicity

In 2016, the ACS status dropout rate for female 16- to 24-year-olds (4.7 percent) was lower than the rate for their male peers (6.8 percent; figure 3.5 and table 3.1). For 16- to 24-year-olds who were White, Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and of Two or more races, ACS status dropout rates were higher for males than for females. Among these groups, the male-female gap in status dropout rates ranged from 1.4 percentage points for White 16- to 24-year-olds to 4.7 percentage points for American Indian/Alaska Native 16- to 24-year-olds. There were no measurable differences by sex in the status dropout rates for Asian and Pacific Islander individuals.


Figure 3.6. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by race/ethnicity and nativity: 2016

Figure 3.6. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by race/ethnicity and nativity: 2016

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
1 Includes data from respondents who wrote in some other race that was not included as an option on the questionnaire.”
NOTE: “Status” dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who received an alternative credential such as a GED are counted as high school completers. United States refers to the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Marianas. Data are based on sample survey of noninstitutionalized population, which includes persons living in households as well as persons living in noninstitutionalized group quarters. Noninstitutionalized group quarters include college and university housing, military quarters, facilities for workers and religious groups, and temporary shelters for the homeless. Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population of 16- to 24-year-olds residing within the United States. Estimates may differ from those based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) because of differences in survey design and target populations.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2016. See table 3.1.


Status dropout rates by nativity

Data from the ACS also enable comparisons between the status dropout rates of U.S.-born and foreign-born individuals in the noninstitutionalized population.6 Overall, the status dropout rate was lower for U.S.-born 16- to 24-year-olds (5.0 percent) than for their foreign-born peers (9.6 percent; figure 3.6 and table 3.1) Following a similar pattern, status dropout rates were lower for U.S.-born individuals than for their foreign-born counterparts in the Hispanic (6.5 vs. 16.1 percent), Asian (1.0 vs. 3.0 percent), and Pacific Islander (3.9 vs. 13.7 percent) racial/ethnic groups. Gaps in status dropout rates by nativity in 2016 were larger for Hispanic (9.6 percentage points) and Pacific Islander individuals (9.8 percentage points) than for Asian individuals (2.0 percentage points). The status dropout rates for U.S.-born 16- to 24-year-olds who were White, Black, and of Two or more races were not measurably different from the rates for their foreign-born counterparts.

Status dropout rates by age

Among 16- to 24-year-olds in 2016, ACS status dropout rates were higher for older individuals than for younger individuals. For instance, status dropout rates ranged from 2.4 percent for 16-year-olds to 7.1 percent for 20- to 24-year-olds (table 3.1).


Figure 3.7. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by state: 2016

Figure 3.7. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by state: 2016

NOTE: “Status” dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who received an alternative credential such as a GED are counted as high school completers. Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population of 16- to 24-year-olds residing within the United States. Estimates may differ from those based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) because of differences in survey design and target populations.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2016. See table 3.2.


Status dropout rates by state

ACS data can also be used to calculate status dropout rates for 16- to 24-year-olds in each state. The ACS status dropout rates in 2016 ranged from 2.7 percent in North Dakota to 8.7 percent in Louisiana (figure 3.6 and table 3.2). In all, 12 states—most of which were located either in the South region (7 states) or the West region (4 states)—had higher status dropout rates than the national average for 16- to 24-year-olds (5.8 percent). Sixteen states and the District of Columbia had ACS status dropout rates lower than the national average. The remaining 22 states had status dropout rates that were not measurably different from the national average. (See figure 3.7 for a complete listing of the status dropout rates for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.)

White-Black status dropout rate gaps by state

In 2016, the national status dropout rate for White 16- to 24-year-olds (4.5 percent) was 2.5 percentage points lower than the rate for their Black peers (7.0 percent) (table 3.2). In total, 23 states had statistically significant White-Black gaps, and in each of these states the White status dropout rate was lower than the Black status dropout rate (figure 3.8).

Among these 23 states, the White-Black gap ranged from 1.4 percentage points in Georgia to 9.0 percentage points in Oklahoma. There was no measurable difference between the status dropout rates of White and Black 16- to 24-year-olds in 13 states, and reliable estimates were unavailable for one of the two subgroups in 14 states and the District of Columbia. (See figure 3.8 for a complete listing of all states.)


Figure 3.8. States in which status dropout rates for Black and Hispanic youth are higher than, not measurably different from, or lower than the status dropout rate for White youth: 2016

Figure 3.8. States in which status dropout rates for Black and Hispanic youth are higher than, not measurably different from, or lower than the status dropout rate for White youth: 2016

NOTE: “Status” dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who received an alternative credential such as a GED are counted as high school completers. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population of 16- to 24-year-olds residing within the United States. Estimates may differ from those based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) because of differences in survey design and target populations. Status dropout rate gaps between White students and Black and Hispanic students in DC could not be calculated because the dropout rates for White students were suppressed in DC.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2016. See table 3.2.


White-Hispanic status dropout rate gaps by state

The national status dropout rate in 2016 for White 16- to 24-year-olds was 4.6 percentage points lower than the rate for their Hispanic peers (9.1 percent, table 3.2). In total, 30 states had statistically significant White-Hispanic gaps, and in each of these states the White status dropout rate was lower than the Hispanic status dropout rate (figure 3.8). Among these 30 states, the White-Hispanic gap ranged from 3.3 percentage points in Florida to 14.6 percentage points in Delaware. There was no measurable difference between the status dropout rates of White and Hispanic 16- to 24-year-olds in 11 states, and reliable estimates were unavailable for one of the two subgroups in 9 states and the District of Columbia. (See figure 3.8 for a complete listing of all states.)


1 While useful for measuring overall educational attainment among young adults in the United States, the status dropout rate is limited as an indicator of the performance of U.S. schools because it includes individuals who never attended school in the United States.
2 Status dropout rates for Asian and Pacific Islander individuals in institutionalized settings were suppressed because reporting standards were not met.
3 Reliable estimates were not available for Costa Rican, Panamanian, Chilean, and Other South American 16- to 24-year-olds.
4 Includes Taiwanese 16- to 24-year-olds.
5 Reliable estimates were not available for Japanese, Bhutanese, Nepalese, Thai, and Other Southeast Asian 16- to 24-year-olds.
6 Includes persons living in households as well as persons living in noninstitutionalized group quarters. Noninstitutionalized group quarters include college and university housing, military quarters, facilities for workers and religious groups, and temporary shelters for the homeless.

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