The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels

62 Pages Posted: 23 May 2008  

James J. Heckman

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Paul LaFontaine

American Bar Association

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Abstract

This paper uses multiple data sources and a unified methodology to estimate the trends and levels of the U.S. high school graduation rate. Correcting for important biases that plague previous calculations, we establish that (a) the true high school graduation rate is substantially lower than the official rate issued by the National Center for Educational Statistics; (b) it has been declining over the past 40 years; (c) majority/minority graduation rate differentials are substantial and have not converged over the past 35 years; (d) the decline in high school graduation rates occurs among native populations and is not solely a consequence of increasing proportions of immigrants and minorities in American society; (e) the decline in high school graduation explains part of the recent slowdown in college attendance; and (f) the pattern of the decline of high school graduation rates by gender helps to explain the recent increase in male-female college attendance gaps.

Keywords: high school dropout rate, high school graduation rates, educational attainment

JEL Classification: I21

Suggested Citation

Heckman, James J. and LaFontaine, Paul, The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels. , Vol. , pp. -, . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1136378 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0042-7092.2007.00700.x

James J. Heckman (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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American Bar Foundation

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Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Paul LaFontaine

American Bar Association ( email )

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Chicago, IL 60610
United States

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