National Institute on Aging

Brookings Institution Study Examines the High School Graduation Rate Gap by Race and Gender

A new study from the Brookings Institution finds that nationwide, the gender gap in high school graduation rates is about 6 percentage points. But in every single state where data are available, boys’ high school graduation rates lag those of girls. In New Mexico, boys trailed girls by almost 9 percentage points in high school graduation, whereas in Vermont, the state with the smallest gender gap, boys were behind girls by just over 2 percentage points.

In five large states, data is readily available by both sex and race: California, Florida, New York, Michigan, and Virginia. In 2021, in these states, about 89 percent of girls graduated on time compared to 83 percent of boys — again a 6 percentage-point gap­. But there are significant differences in the gender gap by race in these five large states, with a 9 percentage-point gap between Black and Hispanic girls and boys. In comparison, there was only a 4 percentage-point gender gap for White students and a 3-point gap for Asian students.

In some states, the on-time high school graduation rates for specific sub-groups are quite low. In Michigan, for example, only 61 percent of Black boys graduate high school on time, compared to 75 percent of Black girls, 81 percent of White boys, and 87 percent of White girls.

The authors of the report conclude that “requiring states to report their high school graduation data by sex, as well as by sex and race would not impose a new burden. The states are collecting the data already. Given the growing concerns of policymakers to address educational inequities, especially considering the impact of the pandemic, it is time to address this oversight.

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