Abstract

This paper applies a unified methodology to multiple data sets to estimate both the levels and trends in U.S. high school graduation rates. We establish that (a) the true rate is substantially lower than widely used measures, (b) it peaked in the early 1970s, (c) majority-minority differentials are substantial and have not converged for 35 years, (d) lower post-1970 rates are not solely due to increasing immigrant and minority populations, (e) our findings explain part of the slowdown in college attendance and rising college wage premiums, and (f) widening graduation differentials by gender help explain increasing male-female college attendance gaps.

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