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Social Determinants of Health and 1 more... less...

G4O7. Increase high school graduation rates

Percentage of people with a high school diploma or equivalent*

Current Value




Definition: Percentage of high school students graduating with a regular high school diploma within four years of starting ninth grade

This KPI will be replaced with one indicating the total population with high school diplomas.

Line Bar Comparison

Story Behind the Curve

Data Source:   Last accessed 27 Dec 2022

Public Health Impact: High School Graduation

High School Graduation

U.S. Value: 85.8%

Healthiest State: Alabama: 91.7%

Least-healthy State: New Mexico: 75.1%

Definition: Percentage of high school students graduating with a regular high school diploma within four years of starting ninth grade

Data Source & Year(s): U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data, 2018-2019 School Year

Suggested Citation: America's Health Rankings analysis of U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data, United Health Foundation,, accessed 2022.


Educational attainment is a strong predictor of health outcomes. The connection between education and health is well-documented. Higher educational attainment is associated with better jobs, higher earnings, increased health knowledge, better self-reported health and fewer chronic conditions. Individuals with lower educational attainment are at a greater risk of adverse health outcomes such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, mental health problems and premature death. Additionally, students who drop out of high school are more likely to experience incarceration.

According to one study, investments to reduce education-related disparities could save up to eight times more lives than equal investments in medical advances. Each high school dropout costs the United States more than $163,000 in lost revenue over a lifetime based on the lifetime differences between dropouts and graduates in income, taxes paid, government spending on health, crime and welfare. Increased time in school is also connected to higher social engagement over the lifetime.


The high school graduation rate is higher among:

What Works

Data Source:   Last accessed 11 July 2022


Keeping children and adolescents in school through high school graduation and beyond is a key strategy for increasing equitable health outcomes. Several programs have been successful in improving high school graduation rates by targeting high-risk populations. Programs aimed at increasing high school graduation rates — and ultimately, health equity — include: 

  • Vocational training and alternative schooling.
  • Social-emotional skills training.
  • College-oriented programming, mentoring and counseling.
  • Attendance monitoring and case management.
  • Community service opportunities.

Interventions to increase high school graduation rates should target health-related and socially-related barriers to graduation. These include absenteeism, chronic illness, poverty, hunger, developmental delay due to chronic stress, homelessness and teen pregnancy. The expansion of school-based health centers can help address these barriers.


Increasing the proportion of students who graduate in four years with a regular diploma is a Healthy People 2030 adolescent health objective.


The high school graduation rate is lowest among American Indian/Alaska Native and Black students. Asian/Pacific Islander students have the highest rate, followed by white and Hispanic students. Minnesota has the largest high school graduation racial gap, followed by South Dakota and Wyoming.

Source:  Last accesses 02/15/2023

Corrective Action

Source:  Last accesses 02/15/2023

Efforts to close racial and economic gaps in educational achievement must begin in early childhood when those gaps first appear. Kentucky has had success in reducing disparities in education by: 

  • Making school funding more equitable.
  • Involving legislators, educators, community leaders and organizations, parents and other stakeholders in reform and accountability efforts.
  • Collecting student-centered data that educators can use to identify and intervene with at-risk students in real-time.
  • Creating unique learning environments that foster equitable education.

Keeping children and adolescents in school through high school and beyond is a key strategy to improve health equity. Various high school completion programs have successfully improved high school graduation rates by focusing on at-risk youths. These programs include vocational training, alternative schooling, social-emotional skills training, college-oriented programming, mentoring and counseling, attendance monitoring, community service opportunities and case management.


Eliminating health disparities, achieving health equity and attaining health literacy to improve the health and well-being of all people is a Healthy People 2030 overarching goal. Healthy People 2030 also aims to increase the proportion of students who graduate high school in four years.

PoE  Last accessed 27 Dec 2022

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