Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PolitiFact: Laura Tyson half right, half wrong on statements about U.S. graduation statistics

The statement

The United States is "number 14, number 15" in college graduation rates, and "we're leading the world in high school dropout rates."

Laura Tyson, Aug. 15 on ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour.

The ruling

Laura Tyson, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisers and the National Economic Council under President Bill Clinton, discussed what she considers a root problem with the current high unemployment rate.

"Let me turn to investment in education. It is the case — we used to be number one in the world in college graduation rates. We are now number 14, number 15,'' she said. "We're leading the world in high school dropout rates."

Was she right about the United States ranking 14th or 15th internationally in college graduation rates and first in high school dropout rates?

We turned to statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which tracks trends in 32 large, industrialized democracies, making it a reliable way to compare the United States to its international peers.

We found a table of college graduation rates that compared 22 countries in 2007, and the United States does indeed rank 14th in that group of nations, with 36.5 percent of the population having a college degree. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Sweden and the United Kingdom all ranked higher. Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Switzerland all ranked lower.

The OECD doesn't calculate high school dropout rates, but it does track graduation rates.

We found that the United States has the eighth-lowest high-school graduation rate among its peers, trailing Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Comparable countries with a lower graduation rate are Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. So on this one, Tyson is off.

Several experts cautioned that college graduation rates in some countries can be skewed by the presence of a lot of foreign college students. And there is some variation in the nature and quality of the statistics, but OECD is generally reliable.

So, Tyson was right about college graduation rates, but wrong about high-school dropout rates. We rate her statement Half True.

Edited for print. For more, go to

PolitiFact: Laura Tyson half right, half wrong on statements about U.S. graduation statistics 08/19/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 19, 2010 7:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa poll rates streets, flooding, police-community relations and transportation as top public priorities


    A city of Tampa online survey of the public's priorities for the next 18 months rated improving streets and easing flooding as the top priority of nearly 89 percent of respondents.

    Survey results
  2. Video shows women violently beating another in apparent Pasco road rage incident


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Two women are accused of dragging another woman out of her car window and beating her unconscious at a Pasco County intersection in an apparent road rage incident, according to the Sheriff's Office.

    Shelley Lyn Gemberling, 49, and Alicia Nikole Scarduzio, 20, are accused of pulling another driver out of her car and beating her in a Pasco County intersection. (Pasco Sheriff's Office)
  3. Top 5 at noon: Out of sight, out of mind: a Times investigation; PolitiFact: what's at stake in the tax debate? and more


    Here are the latest headlines and updates on

    Aaron Richardson Jr. talks to voices in his head at his father's bail bond business in St. Petersburg. Richardson has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   TIMES]
  4. It's not a game, but the names are all the same in this football family


    TAMPA — A coach yells across the field into a scrum of blue-and-white clad football bodies at Jefferson High: "Kim Mitchell! Kim Mitchell, come here!"

    These twins are not only identical, but they have almost identical names. Kim Mitchell III, left, and Kim Mitchell IV are  talented football players at Jefferson High with Division I-A college offers. Kim  III wears No. 22 and plays cornerback while Kim IV wears No. 11 and plays safety. (Scott Purks, Special to the Times)
  5. Did Hurricane Irma speed the end of Florida orange juice?


    Hurricane Irma plundered Florida's orange belt, leaving a trail of uprooted trees, downed fruit and flooded groves worse than anything growers say they have seen in more than 20 years.

    A large number of oranges lie on the ground at the Story Grove orange grove in the wake of Hurricane Irma on Sept. 13, 2017, in Lake Wales. [Photo by Brian Blanco | Getty Images]