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 work. High school dropouts are also more likely to receive public assistance than high school graduates who do not go on to college. 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 graduates. 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 inmates.
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 thirteenth annual dropout report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This report spans the 29-year time period from 1972 through 2000 and focuses primarily on updates to annual time series data. Data from the October 2000 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.
1For employment data, see 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), Indicator 11. For income data, see U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 2001, NCES 2001-072 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001), Indicator 18.
2U.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.
3U.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).4Estimates indicate that approximately 30 percent of federal and 40 percent of state prison inmates are high school dropouts. See U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Correctional Populations in the United States, 1997, NCJ-177613 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2000).