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Rates of Retention, Graduation for Blacks Up Sharply

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WASHINGTON--The proportion of young blacks who dropped out of high school declined sharply from 1975 to 1985, while the percentage who earned diplomas showed a corresponding increase, the Census Bureau has found.

Over the 10-year period, the proportion of black 18- to 21-year-olds who were high-school dropouts fell from 27 percent to 17 percent, while the proportion who graduated rose from 61 percent to 71 percent, the bureau reported in a study issued this month.

"The reason for this is obvious: Schools have been working for a decade on improving black retention,'' said Rosalind R. Bruno, the statistician who conducted the study. "Also, the unemployment rate of dropouts is incredibly high, and for many jobs the basic requirement is a high-school diploma.''

The unemployment rate for black 16- to 19-year-olds is 31.4 percent, compared with 14.1 percent for whites in that age group, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, the black unemployment rate is 12.2 percent, compared with 4.6 percent for whites.

No Gains for Hispanics

The declining percentage of black dropouts appears to be part of a long-term trend that began around 1970, Ms. Bruno said.

But similar gains have not been made by Hispanics, according to the Census Bureau data. The proportion of Hispanic 18- to 21-year-olds who had left high school without graduating remained at about 30 percent from 1975 to 1985, the study found.

For whites in that age group, the proportion who had dropped out decreased by 1 percent over the decade. That change was not statistically significant, Ms. Bruno said. The proportion of whites who graduated from school remained at 81 percent during the period studied.

Although the total number of college students increased by 15 percent during the 10-year period, the college-enrollment rate for black 18- to 21-year-olds remained at 25 percent, the study found.

The proportion of whites in that age bracket who were enrolled in college increased from 35 percent in 1975 to 39 percent in 1985.

Most of the growth in college enrollment was among students age 25 or older, the study found. In 1985, 38 percent of all college students were over age 25.

Among other findings from the study:

  • About 40 percent of both black and white 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled in nursery school in 1985.
  • Of the children enrolled in nursery school, 66 percent of the blacks attended school all day, compared with 28 percent of the whites.
  • In 1985, 64 percent of the black 3- and 4-year-olds attending nursery school were enrolled in public-school programs, compared with 30 percent of their white counterparts.
  • About 64 percent of black kindergartners were attending school all day in 1985, twice the proportion of whites.
  • There was no significant difference in nursery-school enrollment between children of mothers who were employed and those whose mothers were not employed. However, slightly more children of working mothers attended full-day programs.
  • Total high-school enrollment was 40.8 million in 1985, down from 46.1 million in 1975.

Copies of the study, School Enrollment--Social and Economic Characteristics of Students: October 1985 and 1984 (Series P-20, No. 426), can be ordered from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

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