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Friday, December 16, 2005

Education Matters: Trends in dropout rates among the provinces

1990/91 to 2004/05

Canada's high school dropout rate has declined significantly since the early 1990s, especially in the Atlantic provinces, according to a new report.

However, young women have made more progress than their male counterparts, and the dropout rate among students living in rural and small towns remains higher than in urban areas.

The report, published in the December issue of Education Matters, uses Labour Force Survey (LFS) data to calculate dropout rates for the school years 1990/91 to 2004/05. It compares rates for men and women and for metropolitan areas and rural areas, and also examines some of the negative labour market consequences of dropping out.

The high school dropout rate is defined as the proportion of young people aged 20 to 24 who are not attending school, and who have not graduated from high school.

During the 1990/91 school year, the first year for which dropout rates can be calculated using LFS data, one out of every six young people in this age group, or 16.7%, was neither attending school, nor had a high school diploma. However, by 2004/05, this rate had slipped to 9.8%.

In terms of absolute numbers, roughly 212,000 young people in a total population of 2.2 million in this age group were either not attending school or had not graduated from high school by the 2004/05 school year. However, this number was 37.2% lower than it was in 1990/91.

The evidence also suggests that potential employers are less likely to hire high school dropouts. The unemployment rate among dropouts aged 20 to 24 in 2004/05 was 19.4%, double that for all others in this age group.

The data indicate much progress has been made at a national level in reducing the high school dropout rate. The decline was most apparent in eastern Canada.

For example, on average, for the three year period 1990/91 to 1992/93, about one in five young people aged 20 to 24 were without a high school diploma and were not attending school in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Prince Edward Island. This was the highest rate in the country at the time.

In contrast, during the most recent three-year period, the dropout rate in both provinces was in the 8% to 10% range, ranking them among the lowest in Canada. Dropout rates also fell sharply in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, to 9.3% and 9.2% respectively.

In Quebec and the Prairie provinces, rates have averaged above 10% during the past three years. However, these too have declined from their levels in the early 1990s, when they hovered in the 16% to 17% range.

Nor have all groups made equal progress. Dropout rates generally remain higher in rural areas and in small towns than in urban areas, especially in Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta.

And clearly, young men continue to experience a higher likelihood of dropping out than their female counterparts. Among the 212,000 drop-outs in 2004/05, nearly two-thirds, or 135,000, were men.

The dropout rate among men aged 20 to 24 was 12.2% in 2004/05, compared with 7.2% for young women, but both rates have fallen since 1990/91.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3701.

The fourth issue of volume 2 of Education Matters: Insights on Education, Learning and Training in Canada (81-004-XIE free) is now available online. From the Our products and services page, under Browse our Internet publications, choose Free, then Education, then Education Matters.

For more information, contact Client Services (1-800-307-3382; 613-951-7608; fax: 613-951-9040;, Centre for Education Statistics.

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Date Modified: 2005-12-16 Important Notices