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:: By Lydialyle Gibson

:: Graphic by Allen Carroll

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Investigations ::


High-school confidential

Calculating the U.S. high-school graduation rate is no simple task, says Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman, and statistical biases often plague U.S. Department of Education reports on the topic. For example, he says, counting GED recipients as graduates raises graduation-rate numbers, while excluding convicted prisoners boosts black male rates and creates the illusion of a black–white convergence. In a December 2007 working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Heckman and Paul LaFontaine, of the University-based National Opinion Research Center, analyzed several data sources, including the U.S. Census. Their findings: graduation rates actually declined between the late 1960s and 2000, from 81 to 77 percent, and the white–black disparity was largely static at about 15 percent.