Opportunity Index Series: High School Graduation and Opportunity•
It’s June, which means high school graduation season is upon us. Across the United States, millions of students are putting on graduation caps and receiving their diplomas. According to the Opportunity Index, about 75% of American students graduate from high school. These graduates will be eligible to enter post-secondary institutions – an increasingly important step in order to secure a good-paying job in the 21st century economy.
Unfortunately, the 25% of American students who don’t graduate are limited to working low skilled manual labor and service jobs, for most jobs today require at least a high school diploma. These low-skilled jobs have low wages; according to a study from Georgetown University, high school graduates earn 33% more than those who drop out over their lifetime, which translates to about $9,000 dollars annually. High school graduates also earn higher salary increases, their earnings increasing by 25% over their lifetimes. The salaries of high school dropouts only grow about 19% over their lifetimes. Not only do high school graduates earn more, they are less likely to engage in criminal behavior or require social services, and more likely to be involved in their communities.
America’s Promise Alliance, one of our Steering Committee members, recognizes how essential high school graduation is to increasing opportunity and support the American Dream. The Alliance hosts national and community summits to raise awareness of this pressing issue and partners with organizations that make a direct impact on the ground level. Their goal, to have a 90% national high school graduation rate by 2020, is on the right track. High school graduation rates have increased steadily over the past several years, and the 90% goal was already achieved by Vermont and Wisconsin.
High school graduation is the most concrete way for disadvantaged youth to climb their way up the ladder of opportunity. A high school diploma exposes young people to well-paying jobs and the possibility of college. America’s Promise Alliance is making great strides in increasing graduation rates, and are well on their way to reaching their goal.
About this week’s indicator:
Opportunity Index Dimension: Education
Indicator: On-time high school graduation (percent of freshman who graduate in four years)
Source: U.S. Department of Education & National Center for Education Statistics
Rationale for inclusion: Students who do not graduate from high school on-time are at a higher risk of never graduating, not going on to higher education, and neither working nor attending school in early adulthood than those who graduate on-time. On-time high school graduation sets the stage for young adults to take advantage of educational and career opportunities later in life.