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Chapter 9:

Educational Achievement of Youth

Over the past 40 years the proportion of high school dropouts among persons 16-24 years old has declined from just over 27 percent in 1960 to approximately 11 percent in 2000. [Footnote 3] Although declines in dropout rates are consistent across genders and racial/ethnic groups, the rate at which Hispanic youth leave high school is notably higher (32 percent for males, 23 percent for females) than rates for other racial/ethnic groups.

Given the substantial evidence indicating that high school graduates are more successful in the military than nongraduates, and the resulting desire on the part of the Services to enlist young men and women who have completed their secondary education, the decline in dropout rates can be viewed as a plus for military recruiting. However, the increasing rates at which youth are entering college immediately following high school has served as a counterbalance. Using data supplied by the NCES, the Committee noted that in 1970 approximately 52 percent of males enrolled in college the semester following their graduation. By 1999, this figure had increased to 63 percent. Corresponding increases among women (48 to 64 percent) and Blacks (42 to 59 percent) were even more substantial. After examining these data, the Committee concluded that, "The dramatic increase in college enrollment is arguably the single most significant factor affecting the environment in which military recruiting takes place."[Footnote 4]

The Committee cited research that suggests that the impact of higher rates of educational achievement is circular.[Footnote 5] Data indicate that the level of education attained by parents becomes the baseline for their offspring. This appears to be particularly true in regard to those who have at least some college experience, which has a large impact on whether children reach this same level of schooling. Therefore, as the proportion of youth attending college increases, we should expect to see continued increases in the generations to come.


[Footnote 3]  U.S. Department of Education. The Digest of Education Statistics 2001 (NCES 2002-130) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2002), Table 108. [back to paragraph]

[Footnote 4]  Committee on the Youth Population and Military Recruitment, National Research Council, P. Sackett and A. Mavor (Eds.). Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment. (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002), p. 9-5. [back to paragraph]

[Footnote 5]  Mare, R. D., "Changes in Educational Attainment and School Enrollment," in R. Farley (Ed.), State of the Union: America in the 1990s. Economic trends, 1 (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1995), pp. 155-213. [back to paragraph]


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