Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. EA 1.5 High school completion

04/01/1997

High school graduates earn substantially more than persons who leave high school without graduating.11 Table EA 1.5.A presents the high school completion rates for 18- to 24-year-olds who were not still enrolled in a high school program i.e., the percentage in this age group who have received a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as passing the General Educational Development (GED) exam. In 1995, the high school completion rate was 85 percent. As can be seen in Table EA 1.5.B, most students receive a high school diploma rather than an equivalent credential (78 percent versus 7 percent). Between 1972 and 1995, the completion rate has varied between 83 percent and 86 percent (see Table EA 1.5.A).

Differences by Race and Ethnicity.12 As Figure EA 1.5 shows, completion rates vary dramatically by race/ethnicity. Hispanics have had much lower high school completion rates than either blacks or whites since the early 1970s. The high school completion rate for Hispanics in 1995 was only 63 percent, compared to 85 percent for blacks and 90 percent for whites. This suggests that many Hispanic youth and young adults will be less prepared than other 18- to 24-year-olds to enter or progress in the labor force. While completion rates for Hispanics have remained fairly constant since the early 1970s, completion rates for blacks have risen dramatically, from 72 percent in 1972 to 85 percent in 1995. Completion rates have also increased among whites, but to a lesser extent, so that the gap between black and white completion rates has narrowed over time (see Figure EA 1.5)
 
 

Figure EA 1.5 
High School Completion Rates for 18- Through 24-Year-Oldsa, by Race/Ethnicity: 1972-1995 
 

EA1_5.GIF

Note: aNot currently enrolled in high school or below.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey, October (various years); McMillen, M., and Kaufman, P. 1996. Dropout rates in the United States: 1994. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
 

Table EA 1.5.A
High School Completion Rates (Percent) for 18- Through 24-Year-Oldsa, by Race/Ethnicity: 1972-1995
 

 
 
 
 
1972 
1975 
1980 
1985 
1990b 
1991b 
1992b,c 
1993b,c 
1994b,c,d 
1995b,c,d 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total
83 
84 
84 
85 
86 
85 
86 
86 
86 
85 
 
 
Race/Ethnicity
 
 
White, non-Hispanic
86 
87 
88 
88 
90 
89 
91 
90 
91 
90 
 
 
Black, non-Hispanic
72 
70 
75 
81 
83 
83 
82 
82 
83 
85 
 
 
Hispanic
56 
62 
57 
67 
59 
57 
62 
64 
62 
63 
 
Notes: aNot currently enrolled in high school or below. 
bNumbers for these years reflect new editing procedures instituted by the Bureau of the Census for cases with missing data on school enrollment items. 
cNumbers for these years reflect new wording of the educational attainment item in the Current Population Survey (CPS). 
dNumbers in this year may reflect changes in CPS due to newly instituted computer assisted interviewing and/or due to the change in the population controls used this year to the 1990 Census-based estimates, with adjustments for undercount. 

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey, October (various years); McMillen, M. and Kaufman, P. 1996. Dropout rates in the United States: 1994. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.

 
 

Table EA 1.5.B
High School Completion Rates and Method of Completion of 18- Through 24-Year-Oldsa, by Race/Ethnicity: October 1990October 1995
 

 
Completion 
method 
1990 
1991 
1992b 
1993b 
1994b,c 
1995b,c 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total
 
Completed
86 
85 
86 
86 
86 
85 
 
 
Diploma
81 
81 
82 
81 
79 
78 
 
 
Equivalentd
 
White, non-Hispanic
 
Completed
90 
89 
91 
90 
91 
90 
 
 
Diploma
85 
85 
86 
85 
85 
83 
 
 
Equivalentd
 
Black, non-Hispanic
 
Completed
83 
83 
82 
82 
83 
85 
 
 
Diploma
78 
77 
77 
76 
76 
76 
 
 
Equivalentd
 
Hispanic
 
Completed
59 
57 
62 
64 
62 
63 
 
 
Diploma
57 
54 
58 
59 
57 
58 
 
 
Equivalentd
 
Note: aNot currently enrolled in high school or below. 
bNumbers for these years reflect new wording of the educational attainment item in the CPS. 
cNumbers for these years may reflect changes in CPS due to newly instituted computer assisted interviewing and/or due to the change in the population controls used. 
dDiploma equivalents include such things as passing the General Educational Development (GED) exam. 

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey, October (various years); McMillen, M., and Kaufman, P. 1996. Dropout rates in the United States: 1994. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.

 

11 Current Population Survey, March 1996, Table PinC-06a.

12 Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.
 

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