Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Matthew J. Irvin


Graduating high school is an important educational milestone that is related to better life outcomes; however, high school dropout remains an issue in the United States (US). This mixed methods study began with a qualitative stage using attribution theory to identify the factors rural youth perceive as responsible for their decision to drop out of high school. Focus groups were conducted with youth from a rural area in South Carolina (SC). Seven themes were identified across the two categories of Internal and External Focus. Internal Focus themes included: (a) ability/self-efficacy, (b) effort, (c) plans for the future, and (d) other priorities. External Focus themes included: (e) parents and home life, (f) school environment and administration, and (g) teachers. The quantitative stage used these themes to inform selection of items from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002). Logistic regression examined the odds of high school completion based on the selected items from the ELS:2002 data, as well as demographic variables including sex, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (SES), among a national sample of urban, suburban, and rural youth. Sex, race/ethnicity, and SES were related to high school completion for the full sample. SES, class preparation, and parental involvement were significantly associated with high school completion for urban students. For suburban students, sex, race/ethnicity, SES, math self-efficacy, teacher-student relationships, and parental involvement were related to high school completion. Race/ethnicity and SES were related to high school completion for rural students. Implications, limitations, and future research are discussed.


© 2023, Karla Swayngim Reed