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Just the Stats: High Dropout Rates Persist for Latinos, Other Minorities

By 2050, the United States Census Bureau projects that minorities will represent 50 percent of the population.  In 1993-94, five million Hispanics were enrolled in public schools. Now in 2007-2008, that number has almost doubled. However, a growing achievement gap between Hispanics and Whites continue to persist in our public school systems. 

In 2003, 78 percent of all White students graduated on time from high school, compared to 53 percent of  Latinos. The largest gap was seen in males; only 49 percent of Hispanic males graduated, compared to 74 percent of Whites. After graduation, only 7 percent of Hispanics enter college, compared to 76 percent of their White peers. 

According to Editorial Projects in Education, in 2007, approximately 1.23 million students will fail to graduate from high school, and the majority of those students will be members of minority groups.

Based on data from the U.S. Department of Education, high-poverty rural areas in the South and Southwest, as well as large metropolitan cities, have the most prevalent “dropout factories.” The majority of these areas have high concentrations of minority students, and high concentrations of poor areas.

 “If you’re born in a neighborhood or town where the only high school is one where graduation is not the norm, how is this living in the land of equal opportunity?” Bob Balfanz said. 

According to the Civil Rights Project, in 2005, African Americans and Hispanics represented 80 percent of the student population in extreme-poverty schools, where 90 to 100 percent of the students were considered poor.

In addition, three-fourths of all Latino students attended schools where 50 percent of more of the student population were minority students, while only 9 percent Whites attended in  these segregated school districts. 

In 2006, The Digest of Education Statistics reported that, “a 16- to 24-year-old coming from the highest quartile of family income is about seven times as likely to have completed high school as a 16- to 24-year-old coming from the lowest quartile.”

For example, Florida and South Carolina had the highest levels of  “dropout factory”.  Schools. Ironically, based on the U.S. Census in 2005, Florida has 15.8 percent of children living in poverty, and South Carolina has 19.4 percent, both ranking in the top ten impoverished states. In addition, nearly one in three of Florida and South Carolina residents are Hispanic or African American. While only three-fourths of residents hold a high-school diploma, and roughly 20 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Utah, the only state without a dropout factory, also had the lowest poverty levels in the United States and the fewest minority residents.

Currently, the No Child Left Behind Act focuses much of its federal funding and attention on younger students. However, a new, five-year plan proposed by the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate would allocate more federal funds specifically to improve high-school education and ultimately increase retention rates and graduation performance.

Only half of our nation’s Hispanic and Black students will graduate in four years, compared to the national average of 70 percent. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in 2007, “the United States ranked 18th of 23 OECD countries in high school graduate rates.” 

Other Factoids From the U.S. Census, 2006

• A high school dropout earns about $260,000 less over a lifetime and pays about $60,000 less in taxes than a high school graduate;

• America loses $192 billion in combined income and tax revenue for each cohort of students who never complete high school.

• Increasing the high school completion rate by just 1 percent for all men ages 20-60 would save the U.S. up to $1.4 billion per year in reduced costs from crime;

• High school dropouts have a life expectancy that is 9.2 years shorter than high school graduates.

–Olivia Majesky-Pullmann

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