High School Dropout Rates

According to the US Department of Education, event dropout rate is the percentage of high school students who dropped out of high school between the beginning of one school year and the beginning of the next school year. Five out of every 100 students enrolled in high school in October 2000 left school before October 2001 without successfully completing a high school program. The percentage of students who were event dropouts decreased from 1972 through 1987. However, despite some year-to-year fluctuations, the percentage of students dropping out of school each year has stayed relatively the same since 1987. Data from the October 2001 Current Population Survey (CPS) show that black and Hispanic students were more likely to have dropped out of high school between October 2000 and October 2001 than were white or Asians/Pacific Islander students. During this period, 6.3% of black and 8.8% of Hispanic high school students dropped out compared to 4.1% of white and 2.3% of Asian/Pacific Islander high school students.

According to the US Department of Education, status dropout rates measure the percentage of individuals who are not enrolled in high school and who lack a high school credential, independent of when they dropped out. Status rates are higher than event rates because they include all dropouts in this age range, regardless of when they last attended school or whether or not they ever entered the US education system. In October 2001, about 3.8 million 16- through 24-year-olds were not enrolled in a high school program and had not completed high school. These individuals accounted for 10.7% of the 35.2 million 16- through 24-year-olds in the United States in 2001. In 1972, the white status dropout rate was 40% and the black status dropout rate was 49%. Because the black rate declined more steeply than the white rate, there has been a narrowing of the gap between the dropout rates for blacks and whites. However, this narrowing occurred in the 1980s, and the gap between whites and blacks has remained fairly constant since 1990. The percentage of Hispanics who were status dropouts has remained higher than that of blacks and whites in every year since 1970. Even though Hispanics represented approximately the same percentage of the young adult population as did blacks, Hispanics were disproportionately represented among status dropouts in 2001. Also in 2001, the status dropout rate for Asians/Pacific Islanders ages 16-24 was lower than for any other 16- through 24-year-olds. Specifically, the status rate for Asians/Pacific Islanders was 3.6%, compared with 27.0% for Hispanics, 10.9% for blacks, and 7.3% for whites.