Press Release

Report: Latinos More Likely Than Blacks, Whites to Attend the Largest Public High Schools

  • November 01, 2005

About

Hispanic teens are more likely than blacks and whites to attend public high schools that have the most students, the highest concentrations of poor students and highest student-teacher ratios, according to a new Pew Hispanic Center analysis. The findings came in The High Schools Hispanics Attend: Size and Other Key Characteristics, one of three studies released by the Center that examined youths in high schools and colleges.

The report found that more than half of Latinos (56 percent) attend the nation's largest public high schools – those schools whose enrollment size ranks them in the 90th percentile or higher. That's compared with 32 percent of blacks and 26 percent of whites.

The report also found that about 37 percent of Latinos attend the 10 percent of schools with the highest student-teacher ratios. Just 14 percent of black students and 13 percent of whites attend those schools, which have a student-teacher ratio greater than 22-to-1 compared with the national average of 16-to-1.

While much of the research on the achievement gap between Hispanics and whites has focused on characteristics of students, the new study examines the structural characteristics of the high schools attended by different racial and ethnic groups.

"The characteristics of high schools matter for student performance," said Richard Fry, senior research associate at the Center and the author of the three reports. "Hispanic teens are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to attend public high schools that have the dual characteristics of extreme size and poverty."

A second report released by the Center, The Higher Dropout Rate of Foreign-born Teens: The Role of Schooling Abroad, which examines the high school attendance of foreign-born teens points to the importance of schooling abroad in understanding the dropout problem for immigrant teens, finding that those teens have often fallen behind in their education before coming to the United States. Immigrant teens contribute disproportionately to the overall number of the nation's dropouts, often calculated as the number of school-aged teens not enrolled in school.

In a third report, Recent Changes in the Entry of Hispanic and White Youth into College, also released today, the Center found that the number of young Hispanics going to college is increasing. But the study, which examined the latest available enrollment data from individual colleges, found that the number of whites enrolling in four-year colleges is increasing even more rapidly – widening a large gap between whites and Latinos in key states. "When it comes to college enrollment, Hispanics are chasing a target that is accelerating ahead of them," Fry said.

Key findings from the three reports:

Structural Characteristics of Public High Schools Attended by Hispanic, White and Black Youth

• One-in-four Hispanic high school students attends one of the 300 public high schools that are in the top decile in size of student enrollment and also have a high proportion of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. That's compared with fewer than 1-in-10 black students and just 1-in-100 white students.
• Some, but not all, of the difference in school environment experienced by Hispanic students and others can be explained by the fact that the Hispanic population is concentrated in a few states that have larger public high schools, on average, than the rest of the nation.

The Higher Drop-Out Rate of Foreign-Born Teens 

• Only 8 percent of the nation's teens are foreign-born, but nearly 25 percent of the teen school dropouts are foreign-born. Nearly 40 percent of these foreign-born dropouts are recent arrivals who interrupted their schooling before coming to the United States.
• Regardless of what country they come from, teens who interrupted their schooling prior to immigration are much less likely to re-enroll and complete their educations here.
• Many of the male recent arrivals with educational difficulties before migration are likely to be labor migrants, who came to the United States specifically to work.

Latinos and College Enrollment Rates

• Nationally, there was a 24 percent increase in the number of Latino freshmen in postsecondary institutions in 2001 compared with 1996. Among four-year colleges, Latino freshmen enrollment increased by 29 percent over the same period, and among two-year colleges, it increased by 14 percent.
• Between 1996 and 2001, first-time, full-time Hispanic freshmen enrollment in four-year colleges increased in the seven states where the nation's college-going Latino population is concentrated – Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas. The largest gain – 55 percent – came in Florida.
• The growth in Hispanic enrollment was spread across both two-year and four-year colleges. Over the same period, growth in white enrollment tilted in the direction of four-year colleges. As a result, despite Hispanic gains, the gap between whites and Hispanics in four-year college enrollment actually grew larger in key states: In California, for example, a 9 point gap in 1996 widened to 16 points in 2001.

The Pew Hispanic Center is a nonpartisan research organization supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Its mission is to improve understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population and to chronicle Latinos' growing impact on the entire nation. The Center does not advocate for or take positions on policy issues. It is a project of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan "fact tank" in Washington, D.C., that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

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