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Highest High School Dropout Rates in Southern, Western US

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The states with the highest high school dropout rates, with one exception, are located in the southern and western U.S., according to a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report published Jan. 14.

Among the several data points used in the report is the “status dropout rate,” which NCES defines as “the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school credential.”

Of the 16 states above the national average status dropout rate of 6% from 2013-17, 15 are in the southern and western parts of the country.

Louisiana had the highest status dropout rate at 9.6%, followed by Nevada (9%), New Mexico (8.6%), Arizona (8.5%) and Oklahoma (8.1%).

The other eight southern states above the national average were Alabama (7.4%), Arkansas (6.7%), Florida (7%), Georgia (7.3%), Mississippi (7.5%), North Carolina (6.4%), South Carolina (6.8%) and Texas (7.1%).

The other western states above the national average were Oregon (6.9%) and Washington (6.5%).

The one outlying state was Indiana (7.5%).

Twenty-three states were under the national status dropout rate average for 2013-17 (with Massachusetts having the lowest rate at 3.8%), and the rate of 12 states was not statistically different than the nationwide rate.

While the nationwide status dropout rate has declined significantly over the past 40 years, notable disparities remain based on race / ethnicity, gender, country of birth and disability status.

Asians from 16 to 24 years olds had the lowest status dropout rate in 2017 at 2.1%, followed by Pacific Islanders (3.9%), whites (4.3%), individuals with two or more races (4.5%), blacks (6.5%), Hispanics (8.2%) and American Indians / Alaskan Natives (10.1%). The national average in 2017 was 5.4%.

“In total, 33 states had statistically significant white-black gaps, and in each of these states the white status dropout rate was lower than the black status dropout rate,” the report said. “In total, 44 states had statistically significant white-Hispanic gaps, and in each of these states the white status dropout rate was lower than the Hispanic status dropout rate.”

No U.S. states had a higher 2017 status dropout rate for white students than it did for black or Hispanic students.

Males were slightly more likely than females to drop out (6.4% to 4.4%, respectively), and persons with a disability were more than twice as likely as those without a disability to drop out of school (12.1% status dropout rate to 5%, respectively).

Overall, those born outside the U.S. were nearly twice as likely as those born in the U.S. (including U.S. territories and persons born abroad to U.S.-citizen parents) to drop out (8.9% to 5%, respectively).

This is largely the result of a significant disparity between U.S.-born Hispanics (6.3% status dropout rate) and Hispanics born outside the U.S. (15.2% status dropout rate).

The full report is available here.