Chronic Absenteeism

Over 1 in 10 County Students were Chronically Absent in 2018/19

The costs and impacts of chronic absenteeism are significant, with both short- and long-term implications for the student as well as for the family, school, and community. 1 Research suggests that chronic school absenteeism at the elementary school level reduces math and reading achievement, educational engagement, four-year graduation rates or any high school completion, and social engagement for the absent child as well as for other children in the classroom. 2 Research aimed at discovering the causes of chronic absenteeism point to poor physical, mental and oral health, ACEs (adverse childhood experiences), and poor school climate. 3 This indicator measures the trend in chronic absenteeism over time and by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and school district in San Bernardino County.

Chronic Absenteeism

How is San Bernardino County Doing?


With three years of available data, a small increase in the rate of chronic absenteeism at both the county and state level is emerging. Between 2016/17 and 2018/19, the percentage of students who were chronically absent increased more than one percentage point, from 12.1% to 13.3%. While the California average rate of absenteeism (12.0%) was lower than San Bernardino County’s in 2018/19 (13.3%), the state and county had a similar rate of increase since 2016/17. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the movement to online instruction, chronic absenteeism data was not collected for the 2019/20 school year.


Percentage of Students Who Are Chronically Absent in San Bernardino County and California, 2016/17-2021/22

* No data available for the 2019/20 school year.
Source: California Department of Education, DataQuest; data is for all schools (charter and non-charter)

Chronic Absenteeism Defined

Chronic absenteeism is variably defined as being absent for 10% to 15% or more days of the school year. In California, the threshold is 10% or more of the number of days a student is enrolled in school. For students enrolled for a full school year, this equates to 18 out of California’s state-mandated 180 days in a full school year.


Chronic absenteeism rates vary by racial and ethnic identification. Black students have the highest rate of chronic absenteeism (21.4%), followed by Native American students (19.8%) and Pacific Islander students (19.5%). At the other end of the continuum, Asian and Filipino students have the lowest rates of chronic absenteeism (4.1% and 4.2%, respectively). This dramatic disparity contributes to an Equity Gap Score of 5.2 for chronic absenteeism. This means that the group with the highest rate of absenteeism (Black students) is over five times as high as the group with the lowest rate of absenteeism (Asian students).

Equity Gap Score



Percentage of Students Who Are Chronically Absent by Race/Ethnicity in San Bernardino County, 2018/19

Source: California Department of Education, DataQuest


The rate of chronic absenteeism among students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged is more than twice that of students who are not socioeconomically disadvantaged (15.4% vs. 7.0%).


Percentage of Students Who Are Chronically Absent by Socioeconomic Status in San Bernardino County, 2021/22

Note: Socioeconomically disadvantaged includes students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, foster youth, homeless students, migrant students, and/or students for whom neither parent is a high school graduate.
Source: California Department of Education, DataQuest; data is for all schools (charter and non-charter)

1Maynard, B. R., McCrea, K. T., Pigott, T. D., & Kelly, M. S. (2012). Indicated Truancy Interventions: Effects on School Attendance Among Chronic Truant Students. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 10. 2Gottfried, M. A. (2019). Chronic Absenteeism in the Classroom Context: Effects on Achievement. Urban Education, 54(1), 3-34. Smerillo, N. E., Reynolds, A. J., Temple, J. A., & Ou, S. R. (2018). Chronic Absence, Eighth-grade Achievement, and High School Attainment in the Chicago Longitudinal Study. Journal of School Psychology, 67, 163-178. Gottfried, M. A. (2014). Chronic Absenteeism and its Effects on Students’ Academic and Socioemotional Outcomes. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 19(2), 53-75. Cook, P. J., Dodge, K. A., Gifford, E. J., & Shulting, A. B. (2017). A New Program to Prevent Primary School Absenteeism: Results of a Pilot Study in Five Schools. Children and Youth Services Review, 82, 262-270.   3Stempel, H., Cox-Martin, M., Bronsert, M., Dickinson, L. M., & Allison, M. A. (2017). Chronic School Absenteeism and the Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences. Academic Pediatrics, 17(8), 837-843. Van Eck, K., Johnson, S. R., Bettencourt, A., & Johnson, S. L. (2017). How School Climate Relates to Chronic Absence: A Multi-Level Latent Profile Analysis. Journal of School Psychology, 61, 89-102. Pourat N., & Nicholson G. (2009). Affordability of Needed Dental Care is Linked to Frequent School Absences (pre-publication manuscript), UCLA Center for Health Policy Research