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Dropout Rates in the United States: 2001

Christopher D. Chapman




Status Dropout Rates

Because event dropout rates look at what happened over a relatively short period of time, they are not well suited for the study of broader and less time-sensitive educational issues such as the general educational attainment level of a population. For example, an event dropout rate can indicate how many people dropped out last year, but cannot show how many Americans lack a basic high school education more generally. Status dropout rates are better suited to study more general questions of educational attainment.

Status dropout rates measure the percentage of individuals who are not enrolled in high school and who lack a high school credential, irrespective of when they dropped out. Using data from the CPS, status dropout rates show the percentage of young people ages 16 through 24 who are out of school and who have not earned a high school credential (either diploma or equivalency credential such as a General Educational Development certificate). Status rates are higher than event rates because they include all dropouts in this age range, regardless of when they last attended school, as well as individuals who may have never attended school in the U.S. (for example, immigrants who did not complete a high school diploma in their home country).

  • In October 2001, some 3.8 million 16- through 24-year-olds were not enrolled in a high school program and had not completed high school (status dropouts). These individuals accounted for 10.7 percent of the 35.2 million 16- through 24-year-olds in the United States in 2001 (tables A and 3). As noted with event rates, this estimate is consistent with the estimates reported over the last 10 years (figure A and table A5).

  • The status dropout rate of Whites2 remains lower than that of Blacks, but over the past 30 years the difference between the rates of Whites and Blacks has narrowed (figure 2). However, this narrowing of the gap occurred during the 1980s; since 1990, the gap between Whites and Blacks has remained fairly constant. In addition, Hispanics in the United States continued to have relatively high status dropout rates when compared to Whites, Blacks, or Asians/Pacific Islanders (tables A and 3).

  • In 2001, the status dropout rate for Asians/Pacific Islanders ages 16-24 was lower than for other 16- through 24-year-olds. The status rate for Asians/Pacific Islanders was 3.6 percent, compared with 27.0 percent for Hispanics, 10.9 percent for Blacks, and 7.3 percent for Whites (tables A and 3).

  • In 2001, 43.4 percent of Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds born outside of the United States were high school dropouts. Hispanics born in the United States were much less likely to be dropouts. Regardless of when the youth or their families immigrated to the United States, Hispanic youth were more likely to be dropouts than their counterparts of other racial and ethnic groups.

Sample size limitations on the CPS prohibit the development of state-level status dropout rate estimates. Unfortunately, there are no good alternative sources of data available to calculate state-level status dropout rates on an annual basis.

2The racial/ethnic categories used in this report are White, non-Hispanic; Black, non-Hispanic; Hispanic (any race); and Asian/Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic. However, for ease of reading, the shorter terms White, Black, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander are sometimes used.