February 08, 2001

Between 1972 and 1998, data from October Current Population Surveys show that dropout is least among whites and greatest among Hispanics, and it has declined among whites and African-Americans since the late 1970s. Annual dropout rates are successively higher in each of the last three years of high school, and men drop out more than women. Social background favors school continuation among whites relative to minorities, but trends in background were favorable both to whites and blacks. Residence in a large central city increases high school dropout among whites and blacks. The end of compulsory school attendance increases dropout, especially among minorities. Female household headship increases dropout, especially among whites, and post-secondary education of parents and home ownership sharply lower dropout. Social location and background should inform our understanding of changes in high school dropout, along with the dynamics of the economy and of educational policy.

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