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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021

High School Completion

Attainment of a high school diploma or its equivalent is an indicator that a person has acquired the basic academic skills needed to function in today's 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 higher education. Persons with higher levels of education tend to have better economic outcomes than their peers with lower levels of education.107

Indicator ED4: Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 who have completed high school by race and Hispanic origin, 2000–2019
Indicator ED4: Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 who have completed high school by race and Hispanic origin, 2000–2019

NOTE: High school completion is measured by the attainment of a high school diploma or equivalent. Diploma equivalents include alternative credentials obtained by passing exams such as the General Educational Development (GED) test. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately and combined for reporting according to the 1997 U.S. Office of Management and Budget standards for data on race and ethnicity. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.

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

  • In 2019, about 94% 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 2000, when it was 86%.
  • Between 2000 and 2019, the high school completion rate increased for Black, non-Hispanic young adults (from 84% to 94%) and for White, non-Hispanic young adults (from 92% to 95%).
  • During this period, the completion rate for Black, non-Hispanic young adults was lower than that for their White, non-Hispanic peers in every year except the past three years (2017 to 2019), when the rates were not measurably different between these two groups.
  • The completion rate for Hispanic young adults increased 27 percentage points108 between 2000 and 2019, from 64% to 92%, although it was consistently lower than the rates for their White, non-Hispanic and Black, non-Hispanic peers during this period.
  • High school completion rates increased between 2003 (when separate data became available for all race groups) and 2019 for young adults who were Hispanic (from 69% to 92%); American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic (from 78% to 93%); Black, non-Hispanic (from 85% to 94%); and White, non-Hispanic (from 92% to 95%). In contrast, the completion rates in 2019 for non-Hispanic young adults who were of Two or more races (96%), Asian (97%), and Pacific Islander (99%) were not statistically different from the rates in 2003.
  • In 2019, the high school completion rate was lower for Hispanic young adults (92%) than for their peers of most other racial groups (ranging from 94% for Black, non-Hispanic young adults to 99% for Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic young adults). The completion rates were also lower for non-Hispanic young adults who were American Indian or Alaska Native (93%), Black, and White (95%) than for those who were Pacific Islander. In addition, the completion rate for Black, non-Hispanic young adults was lower than the rate for their Asian, non-Hispanic peers (97%).

table icon ED4 HTML Table

107 Lewis, K., & Gluskin, R. (2018). Two futures: The economic case for keeping youth on track. Measure of America of the Social Science Research Council. http://www.measureofamerica.org/PSID/

108 Although rounded numbers are presented in this indicator, calculations are based on unrounded data.