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Economic Impacts of Dropouts

Personal Income and Employment

  • High school graduates, on the average, earn $9,245 more per year than high school dropouts.
    A woman with a high school diploma earns a salary just above the poverty line for a family of three.
  • In 2000, the median earnings for black females with a high school diploma and no college was $20,000 less than the median earnings for black females with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • In 2002, the unemployment rate of blacks ages 20-24 with no high school diploma was 32%, compared to 6% for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
    In today’s workplace, only 40% of adults who dropped out of high school are employed, compared to 60% of adults who completed high school and 80% for those with a bachelor’s degree.
  • Employment projections indicate that jobs requiring only a high school diploma will grow by just 9% by the year 2008, while those requiring a bachelor’s degree will grow by 25%.



  • Each year’s class of dropouts will cost the country over $200 billion during their lifetimes in lost earnings and unrealized tax revenue.
  • The estimated tax revenue loss from every male between the ages of 25 and 34 years of age who did not complete high school would be approximately $944 billion, with cost increases to public welfare and crime at $24 billion.
  • Students from low-income families have a dropout rate of 10%; students from middle income families have a dropout rate of 5.2%, and 1.6% of students from high-income families drop out.
  • The cost to taxpayers of adult illiteracy is $224 billion per year; U.S. companies lose nearly $40 billion annually because of illiteracy.



  • 75% of America’s state prison inmates are high school dropouts and 59% of America’s federal prison inmates did not complete high school.
  • High school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested in their lifetime.
  • A 1% increase in high school graduation rates would save approximately $1.4 billion in incarceration costs, or about $2,100 per each male high school graduate.
  • A one-year increase in average education levels would reduce arrest rates by 11%.



  • Teen girls in the bottom 20% of basic reading and math skills are five times more likely to become mothers over a two-year high school period than teen girls in the top 20%.
  • Male and female students with low academic achievement are twice as likely to become parents by their senior year of high school, compared to students with high academic achievement.
  • The U.S. death rate for those with fewer than 12 years of education is 2.5 times higher than the rate of those with 13 or more years of education.