Studies of the differential in earnings, employment, relationships and quality of life between high school graduates and dropouts are alarming. The increased opportunity to succeed in each of these areas by completing high school is significant. Students who graduate have the chance to continue with education, gain better work experience, find productive careers and relationships, and avoid negative life experiences.


Graduates experience a much higher likelihood of gaining employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated a 2012 unemployment rate of 12.4 percent among people without a diploma, compared to 8.3 percent with a diploma. Additionally, opportunities to continue with education beyond high school and to gain quality work experiences as young adults contribute to access to higher quality and better paying jobs down the road.


The income differential between graduates and non-graduates is staggering. According to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau data, a dropout could expect annual income of $20,241, compared to $30,627 for diploma earners. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found similar results in its 2012 pay assessments. It showed that weekly median income without a diploma was $471, compared to wages of $652 per work for people who graduated. This is a $181 per week difference, or $9,412 per year.


The Northeastern University Center for Labor Market Studies released a report in November 2011 showing that 18- to 34-year-old residents of Chicago without a diploma have more family and relationship struggles than those who graduate. Thirty percent of those with children were married among the non-graduated population, compared to 46 percent with a high school diploma. Civic and community involvement is also lower among non-graduates -- 26 percent voted in 2010, compared to 40 percent of people with a diploma.

Life Choices

The Northeastern University report also showed that dropouts faced a much higher likelihood to land in jail than graduated peers. Males had an especially high incarceration rate of 15 percent compared to 2 percent of female non-graduates. The rate among young black males, at 28.8 percent, was also well above rates of other ethnic groups, including white males at 6.5 percent and Hispanic males at 6.6 percent. Lack of employment, income struggles and limited confidence are among factors contributing to higher rates of criminal activity among non-graduates.

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