NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Education Increases Income

April 11, 2001

Vast numbers of youngsters drop out of classes before receiving their high school diplomas. Whether they realize it or not, they are almost certainly condemning themselves to a lifetime of low wages bordering on poverty levels.

  • According to 2000 Census Bureau data, the median income for a high school dropout is $12,478 a year.
  • That compares to $20,889 for a high school graduate and $40,826 for a college grad.
  • Personnel experts in the Corpus Christi, Texas, area report that a diligent worker without a high school diploma or a General Educational Development certificate might expect to make only $6.50 or $7 an hour.
  • According to a Texas Education Agency survey, 45 percent of the state's 1997 dropouts say they left school because of "poor attendance" -- a vague excuse that offers little clue as to what motivates students.

Many educators say economic factors have more bearing on the decision to abandon schooling than the state-sponsored survey reveals. A high school principal in Corpus Christi estimates that 69 percent of students at his school work and many live on their own.

Thirty years ago, when relatively high-paying manufacturing and factory jobs were plentiful, dropouts could still average $23,000 a year in today's dollars, according to a Brown University study. But today's jobs require higher skill levels and such opportunities are disappearing.

Source: Jeremy Schwartz (Scripps Howard News Service), "School Dropouts Quickly Discover Empty Checkbooks," Washington Times, April 11, 2001.


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