U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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School Dropouts

As of October 2006, there were nearly 3.5 million high school status dropouts1 in the United States, representing 9.3 percent of the population aged 16-24 years. The dropout rate has generally declined over the past several decades, and after a slight increase in 2004, reached a new low in 2006. This represents a decline in status dropouts of over 35 percent since 1972.

Historically, Hispanic students have had higher dropout rates than youth of other races and ethnicities: in 2006, 22.1 percent of Hispanics aged 16-24 years were status dropouts compared to 5.8 percent of non-Hispanic Whites and 10.7 percent of non-Hispanic Blacks. The high rate among Hispanics, overall, is partly due to the high dropout rate among Hispanics born outside of the United States (36.2 percent). First generation Hispanics—those born in the United States but having at least one parent born outside of the country—have a much lower dropout rate (12.3 percent), than do Hispanics who were born in the United States to American-born parents (12.1 percent; data not shown).

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, high school dropouts are more likely to be unemployed and, when they are employed, earn less than those who completed high school. In addition, the National Center for Education Statistics indicates that those who did not complete high school reported worse health outcomes than their peers who did complete high school, as well as reduced access to medical care and higher rates of uninsurance.2

1 “Status dropouts” refer to 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not earned high school credentials (diploma or equivalent).

2 National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2006 with Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans. Hyattsville, MD: 2006.

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