Fewer Texans on average are dropping out of high school, but the number of droupouts remains high, according to a new study.

The study, by the nonprofit education advocacy group Intercultural Development Research Association, says that 29 percent of students who enter high school as freshmen do not graduate. The attrition rate is the lowest in the 25 years since IDRA began performing the annual study, but IDRA notes that while the trend is declining, millions more Texas students will leave school without diploma before 2040, when, the group predicts, students will stop dropping out entirely.

The IDRA estimates that 3 million Texas students have dropped out of high school since 1986, and that, by 2040, between 1.9 million to 3.5 million more students will leave high schools in the state without earning diplomas.

A racial divide also still exists, the study says. Black and Hispanic students are twice as likely as Anglos to drop out.

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The study is based on Texas Education Agency data. Using different methods, the TEA's most recent figures showed a 28.6 percent attrition rate for the class of 2008-2009. That rate put Texas at 36th nationally.

The TEA and IDRA have traditionally been at odds over their drop-out statistics, as have Gov. Rick Perry and his Democratic opponent, former Houston Mayor Bill White.

In a press release, the IDRA cites a former state demographer and an economist, who both say the high dropout rates are contributing to poverty that has cost the state billions of dollars in government assistance programs and lost tax revenue.

See our visualization for a comparison of the total number of students expected to enroll in 2009-2010 to the number of students lost to attrition by ethnic-racial groups. The yellow side of each pie represents female students; the brown side represents male students. By comparing the size of the circle depicting the number of students expected to enroll to the size of how many students were lost to attrition, you can see proportionately how many students in each demographic dropped out. For example, there are similar figures representing the number of white and Hispanic students expected to enroll, but a much greater number of Hispanic students were lost to attrition — as represented by the larger circle.

The IDRA also supplies county-by-county trend data.

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