Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's Happening to High School Graduations?

Today’s Graph of the Week shows the most recent in the annual series of projections by the U.S. Department of Education on the number of public high school graduations each year in Ohio. The message couldn’t be more clear: the source of Ohio resident traditional-age college students is getting smaller each year.

We’ve received several questions today wondering why this is, and an answer comes from the decennial U.S. Census, whose 2010 figures are now easily available at the American FactFinder website. In the period 2000-2010, Ohio’s total population grew, but at a rate of 1.6 percent, much slower than the U.S. total increase of 9.7 percent.

Table 1: Ohio Population by Age Groups, 2000 and 2010
Source: US Census Bureau, American Factfinder
2000 2010 Change
Total population 11,353,140 11,536,504 183,364 1.6%
Under 5 years 754,930 720,856 -34,074 -4.5%
5 to 9 years 816,346 747,889 -68,457 -8.4%
10 to 14 years 827,811 774,699 -53,112 -6.4%
15 to 19 years 816,868 823,682 6,814 0.8%

In the detail of this population change, shown in Table 1, you can see that Ohio’s population of school-age children actually dropped over those ten years, except for the oldest group that includes the most recent high school graduates. We can’t say from the data precisely why that drop occurred, but it makes clear why high school graduations down the road will be going down — there aren’t as many second-graders around to graduate ten years from now.

—Bob Burke