NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 12, 2006

Dropping out of high school has its costs around the globe, but nowhere steeper than in the United States, according to "Education at a Glance," an annual study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Other findings:

  • Adults who don't finish high school in the United States earn 65 percent of what people who have high school degrees make.
  • Adults without a high school diploma typically make about 80 percent of the salaries earned by high school graduates in nations across Asia, Europe and elsewhere.
  • Countries such as Finland, Belgium, Germany and Sweden have the smallest gaps in earnings between dropouts and graduates.

The findings underscore the cost of a persistent dropout problem in the United States.  It is rising as a national concern as politicians see the risks for the economy and for millions of kids.  According to the researchers:

  • Nearly 45 percent of adults without high school degrees in the United States have low incomes -- that is, they make half of the country's median income or less.
  • Only Denmark had a higher proportion of dropouts with low incomes.
  • Also, the United States is below the international average when it comes to its employment rate among adults age 25 to 64 who have no high school degree.

Even U.S. adult education and job training do little to close gaps, because too few dropouts take part, said Barbara Ischinger, director of education for the OECD.

Source: Study: "H.S. Dropouts Face Steeper Costs,", September 12, 2006; based upon: "Education at a Glance 2006," Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, September 12, 2006.

For OECD text: 


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