High school completion

Percentage of adults ages 25 and over with a high school diploma or equivalent.

The 2021 County Health Rankings used data from 2015-2019 for this measure.

Reason for Ranking

The relationship between education and improved health outcomes is well known, with a high school degree correlating strongly with higher life expectancies and improved quality of life.[1,2] Educational level is associated with smoking status, exercise habits, as well as better physical health, such as lower rates of diabetes and improved self-reported health.[1,3-5] Adults with high school degrees are more likely to be employed and earn more, on average, than their less educated counterparts.[5]

Key Measure Methods

High School Completion is a percentage

High School Completion is the percentage of the population ages 25 and over that received at least a high school diploma or equivalent. 

Numerator

The numerator is the total number of individuals ages 25 and over with at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

Denominator

The denominator is the total number of individuals ages 25 and over in a county.

Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress

This measure can be used to track progress with some caveats. It is important to note that the estimate provided in the County Health Rankings is a 5-year average. However, for counties with a population greater than 20,000, single-year estimates can be obtained from the resource listed below.

Data Source

Years of Data Used

2015-2019

American Community Survey, 5-year estimates

The American Community Survey (ACS) is a nationwide survey designed to provide communities with a fresh look at how they are changing. It is a critical element in the Census Bureau's reengineered decennial census program. The ACS collects and produces population and housing information every year instead of every ten years, and publishes both one-year and five-year estimates. The County Health Rankings use American Community Survey data to obtain measures of social and economic factors.

Digging Deeper
Age 1
Gender 0
Race 1
Education 0
Income 0
Subcounty Area 1

You can find this data stratified by age and race/ethnicity at https://data.census.gov/ (Table: S1501). For many communities, you can access these data at the census tract or census block level.

References

[1] Zimmerman EB, Woolf SH, Haley A. Understanding the Relationship Between Education and Health: A Review of the Evidence and an Examination of Community Perspectives. Population Health: Behavioral and Social Science Insights. AHRQ Publication No. 15-0002. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, National Institutes of Health; July 2015. Pages: 347 -384.
[2] Egerter S, Braveman P, Sadegh-Nobari T, Grossman-Kahn R, Dekker M. Education Matters for Health. Princeton, NJ: RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America; 2009. Issue Brief 6.
[3] Heckman JJ, Humphries JE, Veramendi G, Urzua SS. Education, health and wages. National Bureau of Economic Research. 2014: Working Paper No. 19971.
[4] Zajacova A, Everett BG. The nonequivalent health of high school equivalents. Social Sciences Quarterly. 2014; 95:221-238.
[5] Ma J, Pender M, Welch M. Education pays 2016. The College Board. 2016.

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When it comes to developing and implementing solutions to problems that affect communities, evidence matters. The strategies below give some ideas of ways communities can harness evidence to make a difference locally. You can learn more about these and other strategies in What Works for Health, which summarizes and rates evidence for policies, programs, and systems changes.

Establish small learning communities in high schools focused on fields such as health care, finance, technology, communications, or public service
Provide preschool education and comprehensive support to families with low incomes, including small classes, student meals, and home visits with referrals for social service support as needed
Provide supports such as mentoring, counseling, or vocational training, or undertake school environment changes to help students complete high school
Provide child care, parent education, physical health and mental health services, and other family supports to pregnant women and parents with low incomes and children aged 0 to 3
Convene small groups of families for facilitated weekly meetings that include a family meal, structured activities, parent support time, and parent-child play therapy

The County Health Rankings provide a snapshot of a community’s health and a starting point for investigating and discussing ways to improve health. Select a state and a measure below to see what’s happening locally.