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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013

High School Completion

Attainment of a high school diploma or its equivalent is an indicator that a person has acquired the basic reading, writing, and mathematics skills needed to function in modern society. The percentage of young adults ages 18–24 with a high school diploma or an equivalent credential is a measure of the extent to which young adults have completed a basic prerequisite for many entry-level jobs and for higher education.

Indicator Ed4: Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 who have completed high school by race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2011
Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 who have completed high school by race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2011

NOTE: Percentages are based only on those not currently enrolled in high school or a lower education level. Prior to 1992, high school completion was measured by the completion of 4 or more years of high school rather than the actual attainment of a high school diploma or equivalent. For data before 2003, the 1977 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards for data on race and ethnicity were used to classify persons into one of the following four racial groups: White, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or Asian or Pacific Islander.

The revised 1997 OMB standards were used for data for 2003 and later years. Under these standards, persons could select one or more of five racial groups: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Those reporting more than one race were classified as "Two or more races." For 2003 and after, when separate reporting was possible, respondents who reported being Asian or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander were combined for continuity purposes. Also, beginning in 2003, those in a given racial category represent those reporting only that race. Data from 2003 onward are not directly comparable with data from earlier years. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, School Enrollment Supplement.

  • In 2011, about 91 percent of young adults ages 18–24 had completed high school with a diploma or an alternative credential such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. The high school completion rate has increased since 1980, when it was 84 percent.
  • The rate at which Black, non-Hispanic young adults completed high school increased from 75 to 90 percent between 1980 and 2011. Among White, non-Hispanics, the high school completion rate increased from 88 percent in 1980 to 94 percent in 2011.
  • The high school completion rate for Hispanic young adults increased from 57 percent in 1980 to 82 percent in 2011. Nonetheless, Hispanic young adults have had a consistently lower high school completion rate than White, non-Hispanic and Black, non-Hispanic young adults.
  • In 2011, higher percentages of White, non-Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander young adults (both 94 percent) had completed high school, compared with Black, non-Hispanic young adults (90 percent), American Indian or Alaska Native young adults (80 percent), and Hispanic young adults (82 percent).

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