High school dropouts don't just have problems personally, they pose broader societal concerns. While dropouts do commonly suffer from lower job prospects and earning potential, they also don't produce as much for businesses and the economy. Additionally, dropouts face higher rates of prison time due to criminal activities.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting website "American Graduate" noted that, as of 2011, the national high school graduation rate in the U.S. was 75.5 percent. This means that roughly one-fourth of high school students -- over a million youths -- dropped out. Some parts of the country have even higher dropout rates. A July 2011 article by Washington D.C.-based website "DCentric" noted that the D.C. area had a roughly 32 percent dropout rate as of 2008.
Race or ethnicity also seems to have some influence on dropout rates, according to a 2012 study by the "National Center for Education Statistics" looking at 16- to 24-year-old adults who were not enrolled in, and had not graduated from, high school. In this group, the dropout rate among whites was 5.1 percent, blacks, 8 percent, American Indian and Alaska natives, 12.4 percent and Hispanics, 15.1 percent. The rate was lowest in the Asian/Pacific population at 4.2 percent.
"American Graduate" noted that, if the class of 2011 had achieved a 90 percent graduation rate, nearly 580,000 more students would have earned a diploma that year. The site noted a domino effect with a more educated society. The dropouts in that one class would earn roughly $6 billion more in their lifetimes, with just high school diplomas. The U.S. economy also would have generated 37,000 more jobs and would have had a gross domestic production boost of $6.6 billion.
Lower health and higher crime rates are two common quality-of-life implications noted about about dropouts. "American Graduate" said that only 38 percent of dropouts reported being in "excellent" health in 2009, compared to 52 percent of graduates. This may have to do with health insurance deficiency in the dropout population and lower awareness of the value of wellness and recreation. Fewer than 40 percent of dropouts had ever voted, compared to 55 percent of high school graduates, showing reduced civic involvement among dropouts. Dropouts reported having been arrested six times more often than graduates.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.