Dropping out of high school is related to a number of negative outcomes. For example, the median income of persons ages 18 through 67 who had not completed high school was roughly $25,000 in 2012. By comparison, the median income of persons ages 18 through 67 who completed their education with at least a high school credential, including a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, was approximately $46,000. Over a person’s lifetime, this translates into a loss of approximately $670,000 in income for a person who did not complete high school compared to a person with at least a high school credential.
The national event dropout rate presented here is based on data from the CPS and is an estimate of the percentage of both private and public high school students who left high school between the beginning of one school year and the beginning of the next without earning a high school diploma or an alternative credential, such as a GED. Specifically, the rate describes the percentage of youth ages 15 through 24 in the United States who dropped out of grades 10–12 from either public or private schools in the 12 months between one October and the next (e.g., October 2011 to October 2012). The measure provides information about the rate at which U.S. high school students are leaving school without receiving a high school credential. As such, it can be used to study student experiences in the U.S. secondary school system in a given year. It is not well suited for studying how many people in the country lack a high school credential irrespective of whether they attended U.S. high schools, nor does it provide a picture of the dropout problem more generally because it only measures how many students dropped out in a single year, and students may reenter the school system after that time.
- Event dropout rates: On average, 3.4 percent of students who were enrolled in public or private high schools in October 2011 left school before October 2012 without completing a high school program. No measurable change was detected in the event dropout rate between 2011 and 2012 (3.4 percent in 2011); however, since 1972, event dropout rates have trended downward, from 6.1 percent in 1972 to 3.4 percent in 2012 (figure 1). The rate declined through the 1970s and 1980s reaching 4.0 percent in 1990. Between 1990 and 1995, the rate increased to 5.7 percent. The rate then declined again, reaching 3.4 percent in 2009, and has remained around this rate through 2012. These fluctuations between 1990 and 2012 resulted in no measurable difference between the 1990 and 2012 event dropout rates.
- Event dropout rates by sex: There was no measurable difference in the 2012 event dropout rates for males and females, a pattern generally found since 1972. Exceptions to this pattern occurred in 4 years—1974, 1976, 1978, and 2000—when males had measurably higher event dropout rates than females.
- Event dropout rates by race/ethnicity:13 Black and Hispanic students had higher event dropout rates than White students in 2012 (6.8 percent vs. 5.4 percent vs. 1.6 percent). The general downward trend in event dropout rates over the 4-decade period from 1972 through 2012 observed in the overall population was also found among White, Black, and Hispanic students. However, the decreases happened at different times over this 40-year period for these racial/ethnic groups. The pattern found among White students mirrored that in the overall population: a decrease in event rates from 1972 through 1990, an increase from 1990 through 1995, and another decrease from 1995 through 2012. Black students also experienced a decline from 1972 through 1990 and an increase from 1990 through 1995, but their event dropout rates fluctuated and no measurable trend was found between 1995 and 2012. Hispanic students, on the other hand, experienced no measurable change in their event dropout rates from 1972 through 1990 or from 1990 through 1995, but did experience a decline from 1995 through 2012.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 1972-2012.