High School Graduation*

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Percentage of ninth-grade cohort that graduates in four years. The 2024 Annual Data Release used data from 2020-2021 for this measure.

Education is an important predictor of health. Completing more education is associated with being less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise, as well as better physical health and self-reported health.1-3 Adults that are more educated are more often employed and tend to earn more than their less educated counterparts.3 A one-point increase in high school GPA raises annual earnings in adulthood by about 12% in males and nearly 14% in females.4

Graduating with a high school diploma is associated with health benefits when compared to those that earn a Graduate Equivalency Diploma (GED), where GED earners are about twice as likely to have worse self-reported health and physical limitations.2

As rates of high school and college completion are increasing, disparities by race and ethnicity over the past 20 years have remained. In 2000, White recent high school graduates were 8 percentage points more likely than their Black peers and 19 percentage points more likely than their Hispanic peers to enroll in college. In 2020, the gap in enrollment between White and Black high school graduates had increased to 11 percentage points, while the gap in enrollment between White and Hispanic students had decreased to 6 percentage points.3

Find strategies to address High School Graduation*

Data and methods

Data Source


Beginning with the 2010-2011 school-year, states have been required to submit cohort graduation rates to the federal government. These data have been made available to the public on EDFacts. Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates at the Local Education Agency (school district) level from EDFacts data were used for all states except Hawaii, where school level data were used.

Website to download data
For more detailed methodological information

Key Measure Methods

High School Graduation is a percentage

High School Graduation is the percentage of the ninth-grade cohort that graduates from high school in four years.

The method for calculating High School Graduation has changed

Please note this measure was modified in the 2011, 2012, 2014, 2019, 2020, and 2021 Annual Data Releases. In 2019, the priority was to use state-specific data for states where there were many missing counties in the national dataset. Estimates from this year are from the national data source alone and should be compared with caution to previous years. When comparing across years, ensure that the source remained the same.

Caution should be used when comparing these estimates across states

States use different methods to determine who is in a high school cohort. This means that each state considers students who transfer, disenroll, are incarcerated, or have special needs differently. States also differ in how they include online schools.

Caution should be used when comparing these estimates across years

Data should not be compared across all years that are available due to methods changes described in the “The method for calculating High School Graduation has changed” section

Measure limitations

High School Graduation has several limitations. First, there are differences across states and even schools in determining whether a student event is a transfer or a dropout, and this can substantially affect graduation rates because students who dropout are still included in a graduation cohort, but students who transfer are not.5 Second, there are different rules applied to certain student groups (e.g., incarcerated students, special needs students) at some schools; for instance, they may be excluded from the cohort, included in the cohort but given longer to graduate, or included in the cohort with no special considerations. Third, some states include online schools, but students do not necessarily reside in the same county as the online school’s mailing address, so there are problems with assigning an online school to a specific county. Finally, schools which have a large proportion of their cohort as transfer students generally have a disadvantage in terms of graduation rates, as these students may be lacking requirements for their new school.5


The numerator is the number of cohort members who earned a regular high school diploma by the end of the school year.


The denominator is the number of first-time 9th graders four years prior to graduation, plus students who transferred in, minus students who transferred out, emigrated, or died during school years.

Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress

High School Graduation should not be used to measure progress. Local data sources are more appropriate for measuring progress given the substantial measure changes over time.

Finding More Data

Disaggregation means breaking data down into smaller, meaningful subgroups. Disaggregated data are often broken down by characteristics of people or where they live. Disaggregated data can reveal inequalities that are otherwise hidden. These data can be disaggregated by:

  • Race
  • Subcounty Area

These data are available from EDFacts and can be stratified by school district, race, or poverty status where the population is sufficiently large.

Most states maintain extensive websites of graduation rates.


1 Heckman JJ, Humphries JE, Veramendi G, Urzua SS. Education, health and wages. National Bureau of Economic Research. 2014: Working Paper No. 19971.

2 Zajacova A, Everett BG. The nonequivalent health of high school equivalents. Social Sciences Quarterly. 2014;95(1):221-238.

3 Ma J, Pender M. Education pays 2023: The benefits of higher education for individuals and society. New York: The College Board; 2023.

4 French MT, Homer JF, Popovici I, Robins PK. What you do in high school matters: High school GPA, educational attainment, and labor market earnings as a young adult. Eastern Economic Journal. 2015;41:370-386.

5 Murnane, RL. U.S. high school graduation rates: Patterns and explanations. Nat Bur Econ Research. 2013: Working Paper No. 18701.