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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2020

High School Completion

A high school diploma or its equivalent is a prerequisite for many entry-level jobs and necessary for the pursuit of postsecondary education. Therefore, the attainment of a high school diploma or its equivalent is one indicator that a person has acquired the basic academic, social, and other life skills needed to function in today's society. Persons who graduated from high school tend to have better economic and life outcomes than their peers who did not graduate.46 Therefore, it is important to measure the percentage of young adults ages 18–24 with a high school diploma or equivalent and investigate how this percentage varies across time and for different groups of students.

Figure 17: Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 who have completed high school by metropolitan status, 2010 and 2018
Figure 17: Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 who have completed high school by metropolitan status, 2010 and 2018

NOTE: Diploma equivalents include alternative credentials obtained by passing examinations such as the General Educational Development (GED) test. This figure excludes those still enrolled in high school or enrolled in a lower education level. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget classifies some counties as within a metropolitan statistical area. The remaining counties are considered nonmetropolitan. Nonmetropolitan counties include counties in micropolitan statistical and rural areas. Total includes those whose household metropolitan status was "not identified," which is not separately shown.

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

  • In 2018, 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 2010, when it was 90%.
  • In 2018, the high school completion rate for young adults who lived in metropolitan areas was 94%, which is higher than the 89% high school completion rate for their peers living in nonmetropolitan areas.
  • Between 2010 and 2018, the high school completion rate for young adults who lived in metropolitan areas increased from 91% to 94%, whereas the completion rate for young adults who lived in nonmetropolitan areas was not measurably different between these two years (88% in 2010 and 89% in 2018). In both 2010 and 2018, the completion rate for young adults who lived in metropolitan areas was higher than the rate for young adults who lived in nonmetropolitan areas.

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46 Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (n.d.) High school graduation [Website]. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determinants-health/interventions-resources/high-school-graduation