May 2, 2015

23 Alarming High School Dropout Rate Statistics

That many students drop out each year? Read on for 23 alarming statistics and facts on the high school dropouts.

High school is meant to prepare students for the academic challenges they'll face once they go on to college. For many teens, however, going the distance is a struggle. The reasons that students end up dropping out vary - for some, it's just a matter of poor attendance while others have to find work to support their family. Regardless of the "why" behind a student's decision to drop out, the end result tends to be the same in terms of how it affects their future prospects.

In today's job market, a solid education is vital to successfully launching a career, and teens who drop out of school often find themselves at a significant disadvantage. Even for college grads, landing a decent paying gig can prove challenging. To hammer home the message of how important staying in school is, CreditDonkey analyzed some of the most important facts and figures on dropouts in the U.S. Using data pulled from various sources, we've come up with a comprehensive look at just how extensive the problem is.


Our study begins with a brief overview of how frequently students are dropping out in the U.S. and how many actually go on to graduate. We've included some key data highlighting how dropout and graduation rates compare nationally as well as on an individual state level.

1. How many students drop out each year?
As of 2012, the national dropout rate was 7% ; estimates put the number of students leaving school ahead of schedule around 1.3 million each year.

2. How many students drop out every day?
About 7,200 students drop out on a daily basis. That means schools are losing 300 students every hour or five students every minute.

3. Are dropout rates increasing or declining?
Despite the seemingly dismal numbers, the percentage of students who drop out of school has actually decreased by 5% in the two decades between 1990 and 2012.

4. What's the national high school graduation rate?
While the dropout rate is on the decline, the graduation rate is slowly climbing upward. Just over 80% of high school students earned their diplomas on time during the 2011-2012 school year, compared to 73% in 2006.

5. Where are students most likely to drop out?
The District of Columbia has the lowest graduation rate in the country, at just 59% . Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Alaska and Georgia also distinguish themselves, with graduation rates of 68% or less.

6. Which state graduates the most students?
Wisconsin and Vermont tie for the top spot, with 87% of students making it to graduation day. Tennessee, Texas, Indiana, New Hampshire and North Dakota aren't far behind at 86%.


Dropouts come from all different backgrounds, but based on the statistics we found, some students may be more susceptible than others. Using the information we uncovered, we've attempted to pinpoint which factors have the strongest influence in determining whether a teen stays in school.

7. Does gender affect dropout rates?
Historically, dropout rates have been higher among female students. The tide is changing, though; as of 2012, 7.3% of males aged 16 to 24 were high school drop outs, compared to 5.9% of females.

8. Are boys or girls more likely to graduate?
Girls have a definite advantage when it comes to making it to graduation day, with 84% finishing school in 2012 versus 77% of their male peers.

9. How does financial status influence dropout rates?
Income plays a powerful role in determining whether students finish school. In 2012, lower income families accounted for 11.8% of dropouts while just 1.9% came from upper income families.

10. Are dropout rates higher among minorities?
Although dropout rates among minorities are on the decline, they're still higher than non-minorities. Approximately 12.7% of Hispanic students and 7.5% of African Americans dropped out in 2012, compared to a rate of just 4.3% among whites.


Each state has its own guidelines that determine at what age a student is able to drop out. For the next part of our study, we considered how the dropout rate varied based on both state policies and grade level.

11. How many states require students to stay in school until age 18?
Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia mandate that students remain in school until they're at least 18 years of age. Maryland is set to increase its compulsory attendance age from 17 to 18 in 2017.

12. Does age matter for dropout rates?
In states where the compulsory school attendance age is either 16 or 18, the dropout rate hovers around 23% . In states where students are required to stay in school until age 17, it jumps to nearly 27% on average.

13. What percentage of high school freshmen never make it to graduation?
In 2010, the most recent year that data was available, the dropout rate among freshman was 2.6% .

14. How many drop out in tenth grade?
The dropout rate begins to climb once students reach their sophomore year, with 3% of tenth graders quitting school.

15. What percentage of juniors drop out?
Nearly 118,000 high school juniors dropped out in 2010, which represents about 3.3% of the total eleventh grade population.

16. What about seniors?
Interestingly, the dropout rate is highest among seniors, with 5.1% leaving school in 2010.


While Virgin CEO Richard Branson and Tumblr founder David Karp are two prime examples of how far you can go without a high school diploma, their success stories are the exception, rather than the rule. For most dropouts, the economic and social realities are much different. To complete our study, we've included some startling statistics on how dropping out affects quality of life.

17. Does dropping out making finding a job more difficult?
Finding a job can be tough when you don't have the kind of education employers are looking for. As of December 2014, the unemployment rate among those over age 25 without a high school diploma was 8.6%, while it was just 2.9% for workers who had earned at least a bachelor's degree.

18. What about income?
Earning a high school diploma can make a big difference in your earning power. On average, students who drop out earn $130,000 less over the course of their lifetime. Dropouts are also more than twice as likely as college grads to live in poverty.

19. How do dropouts affect the economy?
The impact of dropping out goes far beyond the size of their paychecks. Lower earnings translate to roughly $1.8 billion in lost tax revenue each year, which breaks down to about $292,000 per student over the course of their lifetime.

20. Does dropping out encourage criminal behavior?
Statistically, male dropouts are 47 times more likely to end up behind bars than someone who's graduated from college. At 22.9%, the incarceration rate is highest among young African American men who didn't finish school.

21. Is there a link between dropout rates and teen pregnancy?
Teen pregnancy is the reason some 30% of girls drop out of school. Young moms from Hispanic and African American backgrounds boast the highest dropout rates, at 36 and 38% respectively.

22. How many students eventually complete their education?
In 2012, the GED was administered to about 674,000 people aged 16 and up who lacked a high school diploma. Altogether, just over 21% of dropouts go on to successfully complete the equivalency test.

23. Does dropping out impact life expectancy?
Surprisingly, dropping out of school may actually shorten your lifespan. In one study, women who didn't complete their education saw their life expectancy drop by 5 years, while men lived an average of 3 years less.


There's no question that high school students face some huge obstacles in terms of the social and academic pressures they face. In some cases, the challenges are simply too much to deal with, especially when there are also economic factors at work. Still, we did find it encouraging that the dropout rate seems to be decreasing while graduation rates are on the rise. Hopefully, that's a trend that will continue well into the future.

Sources and References:

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

Read Next:

Leave a comment about 23 Alarming High School Dropout Rate Statistics?

Stay informed with free money-saving tips, deals, and reviews from CreditDonkey.
How Much Does Sunbasket Cost

How Much Does Sunbasket Cost

Sunbasket offers healthy, convenient meals. But is it worth the price? Get a breakdown of the cost and see how it compares.

About CreditDonkey
CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

†Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the offers that appear on this site are from companies from which CreditDonkey receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CreditDonkey does not include all companies or all offers that may be available in the marketplace.

*See the card issuer's online application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However, all information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button you can review the terms and conditions on the card issuer's website.

CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.

About Us | Reviews | Deals | Tips | Privacy | Do Not Sell My Info | Terms | Contact Us
(888) 483-4925 | 680 East Colorado Blvd, 2nd Floor | Pasadena, CA 91101
© 2024 CreditDonkey Inc. All Rights Reserved.