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Executive Summary  
Event and Status Dropout Rates  
Type of Dropout Rates        
Event Dropout Rates        
Status Dropout Rates        
High School Completion Rates  
High School Completion Rates        
Method of High School Completion        
Text Tables and Figures  
Full Report (PDF)  

Introduction Over the past 50 years, the value of a high school education has changed dramatically. During the 1950s, a high school degree was considered a valued asset in the labor market, and through the 1970s, a high school diploma continued to open doors to many promising career opportunities. In recent years, however, advances in technology have fueled the demand for a highly skilled labor force, transforming a high school education into a minimum requirement for entry into the labor market.

Because high school completion has become a requirement for accessing additional education, training, or the labor force, the economic consequences of leaving high school without a diploma are severe. On average, dropouts are more likely to be unemployed than high school graduates and to earn less money when they eventually secure work1. High school dropouts are also more likely to receive public assistance than high school graduates who do not go on to college2. This increased reliance on public assistance is likely due, at least in part, to the fact that young women who drop out of school are more likely to have children at younger ages and more likely to be single parents than high school graduates3. The individual stresses and frustrations associated with dropping out have social implications as well: dropouts make up a disproportionate percentage of the nation's prison and death row inmates4.

Secondary schools in today's society are faced with the challenge of increasing curricular rigor to strengthen the knowledge base of high school graduates, while at the same time increasing the proportion of all students who successfully complete a high school program. Monitoring high school dropout and completion rates provides one measure of progress toward meeting these goals.

This is the twelfth annual dropout report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This report spans the 28-year time period from 1972 through 1999 and focuses primarily on updates to annual time series data. Data from the October 1999 Current Population Survey (CPS) of the U.S. Census Bureau are used to compute national high school dropout and completion rates and rates by background characteristics, such as sex, race/ethnicity, family income, and region of the country. State-level data from the CPS are used to produce estimates of high school completion rates by state. In addition, NCES data from the Common Core of Data (CCD) are used to provide estimates of dropout rates by state for most states.

For a complete copy of this report including: standard error tables; time series tables; supplemental tables; and technical notes, please click on the menu link for Full Report (PDF)

 1 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 1999, NCES 99-022 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1999), Indicators 11 and 12.
 2 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 1998, NCES 98-013 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998), Indicator 34.
 3 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Dropout Rates in the United States: 1994, NCES 96-863, by M. McMillen and P. Kaufman (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1996).
 4 Estimates indicate that one-quarter of federal and one-half of state prison inmates are high school dropouts. See U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Comparing Federal and State Prison Inmates, 1991, NCJ-145864, by C.W. Harlow (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, September 1994).
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