Special Report

Cities Where the Most (and Least) People Graduate High School

The high school graduation rate across the nation reached a record high of 82% in school year 2013-2014. While American students overall are graduating at a higher rate than ever before, some areas of the country have much lower graduation rates.

Based on data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the cities with the highest and lowest high school graduation rates. The rate is the percentage of ninth-graders in the 2009-2010 school year that graduated four years later. Albany, Oregon has the lowest graduation rate in the nation, at just 51.3% of high schoolers graduating on time. Sherman-Denison, Texas, has the highest graduation rate of any U.S. city, at 94.8%.

Entering the workforce without a high school diploma can dramatically reduce a person’s job prospects and earnings potential. A high school graduate earns approximately $8,000 more annually and is less likely to be periodically unemployed than a high school dropout.

Click here to see the cities where the least people graduate high school.

Click here to see the cities where the most people graduate high school.

The unemployment rate in 23 of the 25 cities with the lowest graduation rates is higher than the national jobless rate. Of the 25 metro areas with the highest graduation rates, all but six have lower unemployment rates than the nation as a whole.

A host of interrelated factors may weigh on a child’s ability to succeed at school. Children living in poverty may have a parent needing to work multiple jobs, for example. This in turn often leads to low parental involvement. In the United States, 25% of children live in poverty.

Financial distress is especially common in single-parent households, in which both the parent and children face challenges that in other cases are shared by two parents. According to education data tracker Kids Count, more than one third of children under 18 live with a single parent.

Of the 25 cities with the lowest graduation rates, 21 have a higher share of children living in single-parent households than the nation as a whole. This is only true of nine of the 25 cities with the highest graduation rates.

A commonly cited reason for dropping out of high school is teen pregnancy. Nationwide, only 40% of teen mothers finish high school. This lack of educational attainment by teen mothers often carries on to the the next generation as only about two-thirds of children born to teen mothers earn a high school diploma. Of the 25 cities where the rate of teen births is lowest, 22 have graduation rates higher than the national average. In areas with especially low teen birth rates, the opposite is true. The highest rate of teen birth is in Odessa, Texas, which also has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country, at 71.1%.

To identify the cities with the highest and lowest high school graduation rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. High school graduation rates represent the percentage of the ninth-grade cohort in public schools that graduated from high school in four years. The data are for students graduating on time in the 2012-2013 school year and are the most recent available. The percentage of children in single-parent homes and the teen birth rate are also from County Health Rankings. Teen birth rates are for the period 2007-2013 and are the number of births per 1,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19. May 2016 unemployment rates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These are the cities with the highest and lowest high school graduation rates.

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