Skip Navigation

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

Indicator 4: Status Completion Rate (CPS)

Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) can be used to calculate the status completion rate, the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds not enrolled in high school (also referred to as “young adults” in this indicator) who hold a high school diploma or an alternative credential, such as a GED. This rate includes all civilian, noninstitutionalized individuals 18 to 24 years old who have completed high school, including individuals who completed their education outside of the United States. While the graduation rates in indicators 5 and 6 focus on a particular cohort of students in the U.S. secondary school system who graduated with a high school diploma, the status completion rate, presented in this indicator, describes the educational attainment of individuals in a given age range. Moreover, the status completion rate counts both high school diploma recipients and alternative credential recipients as high school completers.

The status completion rate is not the opposite of the status dropout rate, and the two rates do not add up to 100 percent. The rates are based on different age ranges: the status dropout rate is reported for 16- to 24-year-olds, and the status completion rate is reported for 18- to 24-year-olds. The denominator of the status completion rate excludes current high school students, whereas the denominator of the status dropout rate includes high school students.

Total status completion rates

Of the 28.0 million 18- to 24-year-olds who were not enrolled in high school in October 2016, approximately 26.1 million (92.9 percent) held a high school diploma or an alternative credential (figure 4.1 and table 4.1). This percentage represents a 9 percentage points increase, compared to 83.5 percent in 1976,1 40 years earlier (figure 4.2 and table 4.2). More recently, the status completion rate increased by 5 percentage points over the past ten years, from 87.8 percent in 2006.


Figure 4.1. Status completion rates of 18- to 24-year-olds, by race/ethnicity, sex, and disability status: October 2016

Figure 4.1. Status completion rates of 18- to 24-year-olds, by race/ethnicity, sex, and disability status: October 2016

NOTE: The status completion rate is the number of 18- to 24-year-olds who are high school completers as a percentage of the total number of 18- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in high school or a lower level of education. High school completers include those with a high school diploma, as well as those with an alternative credential such as a GED. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Individuals identified as having a disability reported difficulty in at least one of the following: hearing, seeing even when wearing glasses, walking or climbing stairs, dressing or bathing, doing errands alone, concentrating, remembering, or making decisions. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons in the military and persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities).
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 2016. See table 4.1.


Status completion rates by race/ethnicity

In 2016, the status completion rates for 18- to 24-year-olds who were Asian (96.8 percent), of Two or more races (96.2 percent), and White (94.5 percent) were higher than the rates for Black (92.2 percent) and Hispanic (89.1 percent) young adults (figure 4.1 and table 4.1). The rate for Asian young adults was also higher than the rates for individuals who were White and of Two or more races. In addition, the Black status completion rate was higher than the Hispanic rate. The rate for Pacific Islander young adults (83.6 percent) was not measurably different from the rate for any other racial/ethnic group. The rate for American Indian/Alaska Native young adults (75.3 percent) was lower than the rates for all racial/ethnic groups except Pacific Islanders.


Figure 4.2. Status completion rates of 18- to 24-year-olds, by race/ethnicity: October 1976 through 2016

Figure 4.2. Status completion rates of 18- to 24-year-olds, by race/ethnicity: October 1976 through 2016

1 Includes other racial/ethnic categories not separately shown.
NOTE: The status completion rate is the number of 18- to 24-year-olds who are high school completers as a percentage of the total number of 18- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in high school or a lower level of education. High school completers include those with a high school diploma, as well as those with an alternative credential such as a GED. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. White and Black exclude persons of Two or more races after 2002. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons in the military and persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities). Because of changes in data collection procedures, data for years 1992 and later may not be comparable with figures for years prior to 1992.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October, 1976 through 2016. See table 4.2.


The general upward trend in status completion rates from 1976 to 2016 observed in the overall 18- to 24-year-old population was also found among White, Black, and Hispanic young adults (figure 4.2 and table 4.2). During this period, the White status completion rate increased from 86.4 percent to 94.5 percent, the Black status completion rate increased from 73.5 percent to 92.2 percent, and the Hispanic status completion rate rose from 60.3 percent to 89.1 percent. In particular, the Hispanic status completion rate increased 25 percentage points between 2000 and 2016 (from 64.1 to 89.1 percent), while the Hispanic status dropout rate fell during the same time period (see Indicator 2).

Over the period from 1976 to 2016, the White status completion rate was consistently higher than the Black and Hispanic rates, and the Black status completion rate was consistently higher than the Hispanic rate. Gaps in status completion rates between some racial/ethnic groups narrowed during this period. Specifically, the White-Hispanic gap narrowed from 26.1 percentage points in 1976 to 5.4 percentage points in 2016, and the White-Black gap narrowed from 12.9 percentage points in 1976 to 2.3 percentage points in 2016. Additionally, the Black-Hispanic gap narrowed from 13.2 percentage points in 1976 to 3.1 percentage points in 2016. Additionally, the Black-Hispanic gap narrowed from 13.2 percentage points in 1976 to 3.1 percentage points in 2016. The White-Black gap in status completion rates remained statistically significant in 2016, in contrast to the earlier finding that there was no measurable White-Black gap in the 2016 status dropout rates calculated using CPS data (see Indicator 2). These different conclusions are in part the result of the different age ranges (16–24 for the status dropout rate and 18–24 for the status completion rate) and variables used to compute these two rates.


Figure 4.3. Status completion rates of 18- to 24-year-olds, by sex: October 1976 through 2016

Figure 4.3. Status completion rates of 18- to 24-year-olds, by sex: October 1976 through 2016

NOTE: The status completion rate is the number of 18- to 24-year-olds who are high school completers as a percentage of the total number of 18- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in high school or a lower level of education. High school completers include those with a high school diploma, as well as those with an alternative credential such as a GED. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons in the military and persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities). Because of changes in data collection procedures, data for years 1992 and later may not be comparable with figures for years prior to 1992.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October, 1976 through 2016. See table 4.2.


Status completion rates by sex

In 2016, the status completion rate was higher for female 18- to 24-year-olds (94.3 percent) than for their male peers (91.6 percent; figure 4.1 and table 4.1). Between 1976 and 2016, the status completion rate for male 18- to 24-year-olds increased from 83.0 percent to 91.6 percent, and the female status completion rate increased from 84.0 percent to 94.3 percent (figure 4.3 and table 4.2). More recently, between 2006 and 2016 the status completion rate increased from 86.5 to 91.6 percent for male young adults and from 89.2 to 94.3 percent for female young adults.

Status completion rates by race/ethnicity and sex

In 2016, the overall pattern of higher status completion rates for female than for male 18- to 24-year-olds was also observed for White (95.1 vs. 93.8 percent), Black (95.5 vs. 88.7 percent), and Hispanic (91.3 vs. 86.8 percent) 18- to 24-year-olds. There was no measurable difference between female and male status completion rates for young adults who were Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, or of Two or more races (table 4.1).2

Status completion rate by disability status

In 2016, the status completion rate for 18- to 24-year-olds with disabilities was lower than that of their peers without disabilities (83.8 vs. 93.3 percent; figure 4.1 and table 4.1).


Figure 4.4. Status completion rates of 18- to 24-year-olds, by recency of immigration and ethnicity: October 2016

Figure 4.4. Status completion rates of 18- to 24-year-olds, by recency of immigration and ethnicity: October 2016

NOTE: The status completion rate is the number of 18- to 24-year-olds who are high school completers as a percentage of the total number of 18- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in high school or a lower level of education. High school completers include those with a high school diploma, as well as those with an alternative credential such as a GED. 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. Children born abroad to U.S.-citizen parents are counted as born in the United States. Individuals defined as “first generation” were born in the United States, but one or both of their parents were born outside the United States. Individuals defined as “second generation or higher” were born in the United States, as were both of their parents. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons in the military and persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities).
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 2016. See table 4.1.


Status completion rates by recency of immigration

Status completion rates of foreign-born and U.S.-born 18- to 24-year-olds can also be compared.3 Among Hispanic young adults, the status completion rate for those who were foreign born was 79.8 percent, which was lower than the rates for those who were first generation (92.0 percent) and those who were second generation or higher (92.2 percent; figure 4.4 and table 4.1). The status completion rate for first-generation Hispanic young adults was not measurably different from the rate for Hispanic young adults who were second generation or higher.

Among non-Hispanic young adults, those who were second generation or higher had a lower status completion rate (93.7 percent) than those who were first generation (96.7 percent). Status dropout rates for non-Hispanic young adults who were foreign born were not measurably different from the rates for those who were first generation or second generation or higher.

Among foreign-born and first-generation young adults, status completion rates were lower for Hispanics than for non-Hispanics. Among young adults who were second generation or higher, there was no measurable difference between the status completion rates of Hispanics and non-Hispanics.

Status ompletion rates by region

In 2016, young adults in the Northeast had a higher status completion rate (95.0 percent) than their peers in the West (93.1 percent), Midwest (92.6 percent), and South (92.0 percent; table 4.1).


1 Because of changes in data collection procedures, data for 1992 and later years may not be comparable with figures for prior years.
2 Reliable estimates were not available for male and female Pacific Islanders.
3 The following recency of immigration categories are used in this analysis: (1) individuals born outside the United States (those who were born abroad to U.S.-citizen parents are counted as born in the United States); (2) first-generation individuals (those who were born in the United States but have at least one parent born outside of the United States); and (3) individuals who are second generation or higher (those who were born in the United States and whose parents were both born in the United States).

Back to Top