High School Completion

Percentage of adults ≥25 years with high school diploma or equivalent, or higher degree

American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau. Calculated by the Dashboard Team using data from 2021, 5 year estimate.
Dashboard-City Average

Why do we measure high school completion?

Research shows a strong connection between education and health. For example, higher levels of education are linked to a lower risk of death later in life. High school completion (or obtaining the equivalent of a high school diploma) has wide-ranging health, social, and economic impacts.High school completion is associated with improved individual health, and higher rates of high school completion in a community are associated with lower levels of poor population health outcomes and disparities.2-5 For example, research demonstrates that graduating from high school can lead to a person being less likely to develop chronic health conditions and to experience unemployment and lack of access to health care later in life.5-7 However, some racial and ethnic groups experience lower rates of high school completion than others. In particular, high school dropout rates are highest among American Indian/Alaska Native students at 9.6%. Improving high school completion rates can promote healthier communities.1,5   

How do we measure high school completion?

This metric estimates the percentage of residents aged 25 years and older who have received at least a high school diploma (or equivalent). This metric applies to residents at both the city and census tract levels; school district-level estimates are not calculated.

Note: As of October 2020, the City Health Dashboard revised this metric (formerly High School Graduation), by changing the data source from state-based education data to the American Community Survey. While the old metric looked at public school students who graduated within four years of entering ninth grade in high schools geographically located within the city (whether or not students lived in the city), this new metric looks at high school completion rates among all city (or census tract) residents aged 25 years and older, regardless of where they went to high school.

Strengths and Limitations

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

• High school completion is associated with improved health and social/economic outcomes later in life.

• This metric is available broken down by race and ethnicity, which can help target resources and interventions for groups that historically have been underrepresented

• This metric is comparable across years and Dashboard cities.

• This metric does not focus on the performance of schools in a given city, but rather on the highest level of education achieved by adults who reside in that city, regardless of where they attended high school.

• Race and ethnicity data are often collected using discrete options that may not account for all or multiple identities, leading to undercounting of those who are more likely to select “other.”




High school completion is calculated by the following formula:                

high school completion formula

For more information on the calculation, please refer to the City Health Dashboard Technical Document.

Data Source

Estimates for this metric are from American Community Survey five-year estimate data using the S1501 and C15002 table(s). Multi-year data are available for this metric. Please refer to Using Multi-Year Data: Tips and Cautions. For more information on the data sources, please refer to the City Health Dashboard Technical Document.


  1. Why Education Matters to Health: Exploring the Causes. Richmond, VA: The Center on Society and Health;2014.

  2. Freudenberg N, Ruglis J. Peer reviewed: Reframing school dropout as a public health issue. Preventing chronic disease. 2007;4(4).

  3. Vaughn MG, Salas-Wright CP, Maynard BR. Dropping out of school and chronic disease in the United States. Zeitschrift fur Gesundheitswissenschaften = Journal of public health. 2014;22(3):265-270.

  4. Lansford JE, Dodge KA, Pettit GS, Bates JE. A Public Health Perspective on School Dropout and Adult Outcomes: A Prospective Study of Risk and Protective Factors from Age 5 to 27. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. 2016;58(6):652-658.

  5. J.O. Lee, R. Kosterman, T.M. Jones, T.I. Herrenkohl, I.C. Rhew, R.F. Catalano, J.D. Hawkins. Mechanisms linking high school graduation to health disparities in young adulthood: a longitudinal analysis of the role of health behaviours, psychosocial stressors, and health insurance. Public Health. 2016;139, 61-69.

  6. Unemployment rates and earnings by educational attainment. 2019.

  7. Tamborini CR, Kim C, Sakamoto A. Education and Lifetime Earnings in the United States. Demography. 2015;52(4):1383-1407.

Last updated: July 26, 2023