Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew center, said the findings confirm trends his organization has been tracking. “We’ve seen a surge in the Hispanic high school completion rate,” he said.

He pointed to the nation’s soft economy as one reason more students are staying in school but added that there is probably a shift in demographics at play, too. As the number of Hispanic immigrants declines, more high school students are likely to have been born in the United States and value education, Lopez said.

Graduation rates improved for every race and ethnicity in 2010, but gaps among racial groups persist. Asian students had the highest graduation rate, with 93 percent of students finishing high school on time. White students followed with an 83 percent graduation rate, American Indians and Alaska Natives with 69.1 percent and African Americans with 66.1 percent.

Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, agreed with Lopez that the weak economy is one reason for the improvement in graduation rates across the board.