High School Graduation Rate

People regularly shake their heads and say only 80% of students graduate high school. From there a discussion of the decline of the United States often follows.

I searched for some facts that bear on the issue and found this longitudinal study (p.12) about 10th graders after ten years had passed.

Education Achievement

The highest levels of education completed by 2002 high school sophomores as of 2012 were as follows:

  • bachelor’s degree or higher (33 percent)
  • associate’s degree (9 percent)
  • undergraduate certificate (10 percent)
  • post-secondary attendance but no post-secondary credential (32 percent)
  • high school diploma or equivalent (13 percent)
  • less than high school completion (3 percent)

After 10 years, the high school completion rate is 97%.

Some people take more than four years to complete high school. Also many people get GEDs. Do I think everyone flourishes to the best of their ability?  No, but many do.  And of the many that don’t, let’s not forget the role of personal qualities and social problems in addition to the education factors.


Figure 1. Chart of student final schooling and job opportunities
Figure 1. Chart of student final schooling and job opportunities

Approximately 10 years after their 10th-grade year, 2002 high school sophomores reported their current activities in terms of paid employment and postsecondary course-taking as follows:

  • 19 percent reported they were both working for pay and taking postsecondary courses
  • 63 percent reported they were working for pay only
  • 5 percent reported they were taking postsecondary courses only
  • 13 percent reported they were neither working for pay nor taking post secondary courses.


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