Educational attainment: The drop out rate is declining while the graduation rate is increasing

There is good news for Detroit’s children in this post. Both the graduation rate and the drop out rate are improving. This post shows, among other indicators of educational attainment, that the drop out rate in Detroit’s schools is declining, while the graduation rate is increasing.

In this post we also present educational attainment information by Census tract for the City of Detroit and a comparison of educational attainment for the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan.



From 2007 to 2009, the graduation rate for Detroit Public Schools slowly increased. After a drop to 59.7 percent in 2011, the Detroit graduation rate rose to 64.7 percent in 2012. In the same time frame, the State of Michigan’s graduation rate has not dipped below 74.3 percent. In 2012, it was recorded at 76.2 percent. Thus, there is some closing of the gap between Detroit and the state.

The same is true for drop out rates. The drop out rates for both Detroit and Michigan decreased from 2007 to 2009 and then remained relatively flat from 2009 to 2012. Nevertheless, the gap between the state and Detroit declined.

The graduation rates examined are based on the percentage of each four year cohort that graduates.



According to information from the 2007-2011 American Community Survey, 28.3 percent of the Detroit’s population aged 18 to 24 years old had less than a high school diploma. The percentage for all Michigan residents was 17.4 percent. Those with a high school degree, or equivalent, comprised 33.4 percent and those with some college made up 34.6 percent of this same population. In the 2007-2011 time frame there were 3.7 percent of Detroit residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher. For Michigan, this was 6.7 percent.



In both Detroit and Michigan, the highest level of education attained by most residents aged 25 and older was a high school degree, or the equivalent: 33.4 percent in Detroit and 31.1 percent in Michigan.  Those with some college education, but no degree, made up 25.3 percent of the 25 and older population in Detroit and 23.8 percent in Michigan. While the city and state had similar rates in those two categories, Detroit had higher percentages of residents with less than a high school diploma and Michigan had higher percentages of residents with college degrees.


(Please click maps to make larger)

The above map shows the number of Detroit residents who received a high school diploma, or the equivalent, according to the American Community Survey 2007-2011 5-year estimate. The lowest levels of those who only earned a diploma are in the city’s inner core. Some of these locations in the lightest shade of purple are primarily industrial centers or commercial properties. There were nine Census tracts, shown in the darkest shade of purple, where at least 500 residents had a minimum of a high school diploma.


College graduates in Detroit are concentrated in three areas. These include, first, the far east side, areas adjacent to the Pointes.  Second there is a corridor along the Jefferson Boulevard into downtown and then up through Midtown. Third, a large area of the Northwest has a high number of college graduates.

To see our previous post educational attainment click here.

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