May 13, 2010

Hispanics, High School Dropouts and the GED

I. Overview

Just one-in-ten Hispanic high school dropouts has a General Educational Development (GED) credential, widely regarded as the best “second chance” pathway to college, vocational training and military service for adults who have not graduated from high school. By contrast, two-in-ten black high school dropouts and three-in-ten white high school dropouts have a GED, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of newly available educational attainment data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey.

The relatively low level of GED credentialing among Hispanic high school dropouts is especially notable because Hispanics have a much higher high school dropout rate than do blacks or whites. Some 41% of Hispanics ages 20 and older in the United States do not have a regular high school diploma, versus 23% of comparably aged blacks and 14% of whites.

Among Hispanics, there are significant differences between the foreign born and the native born in high school diploma attainment rates and GED credentialing rates. Some 52% of foreign-born Latino adults are high school dropouts, compared with 25% of the native born. And among Hispanic dropouts, some 21% of the native born have a GED, compared with just 5% of the foreign born.

Hispanics are the nation’s largest minority group; they make up 47 million, or 15%, of the population of the United States. As of 2008, there were 29 million Hispanics ages 20 and older; of this group, 41% are native born and 59% are foreign born.

This Pew Hispanic Center report also analyzes labor market outcomes of Hispanic adults based on whether they dropped out of high school, have a GED or obtained a regular high school diploma or more. Among its key findings:

About this Report

The analysis examines the educational attainment and outcomes of adults ages 20 and older, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS covers the entire resident population, including persons in correctional facilities and nursing homes. The 2008 ACS for the first time distinguished between respondents whose highest education was a regular high school diploma and those who earned a GED or other alternative high school credential.

A Note on Terminology

The terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” are used interchangeably in this report, as are the terms “foreign born” and “immigrant.” “Foreign born” refers to persons born outside of the United States to parents neither of whom was a U.S. citizen. Foreign born also refers to those born in Puerto Rico. “Native born” refers to persons born in the United States and those born abroad to parents at least one of whom was a U.S. citizen.

All references to whites and blacks are to the non-Hispanic components of those populations.

Adults who have not obtained a regular high school diploma or more education are referred to as “high school dropouts.” Also, adults who report their highest education level as a GED or other alternative high school credential are “high school dropouts.”