Findings Indicate High School Dropout Rate Impacts U.S. Economy

As America’s attention turns toward the economic decline and the preservation of our competitive edge in the global marketplace, America's Promise Alliance partner, the Alliance for Excellent Education has released findings detailing another crisis looming over the nation’s financial, social, and civic well-being.

The report, Dropouts, Diplomas, and Dollars: U.S. High Schools and the Nation’s Economy, highlights the ways in which increasing numbers of dropouts translate not only into lost human potential, net worth, and tax revenue, but also a weakened democracy and a compromised ability to remain a leader among nations.

No longer is the United States at the forefront in graduating students from high school and college.

This fall, more than four million students across the country entered the ninth grade. Over the next four years, a third of those students will drop out before attaining a diploma; another third will graduate without having gained the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in work or postsecondary education.

Moreover, America’s schools are failing our minority populations. While about 70 percent of all American high school students graduate in the expected four years, fewer than 58 percent of Hispanic, African American, and Native American students graduate on time, compared to 77 percent of white students.

If, as predicted, minority populations continue to grow, and their low graduation rates stagnate, the national graduation rate will steadily fall. Already, minority students account for more than half of the nation’s dropouts, despite making up less than half of the nation’s public school population.

By continuing to lose more than a million students every school year, the American economy stands to forfeit an infusion of hundreds of billions of dollars.

The Department of Labor estimates that 90 percent of new high-growth, high-wage jobs will require some postsecondary education, leaving minimally educated Americans with fewer options to support themselves and their families. In addition, over the course of a lifetime:

  • One dropout costs the nation approximately $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity.
  • One high school graduate saves states an average of $13,706 in Medicaid and expenses for uninsured care. States could save more than $17 billion if those young people earned high school diplomas.
  • Accumulated wealth in households headed by high school graduates equates to an additional $74 billion in collective U.S. wealth.

Ensuring that all secondary students graduate and are prepared to succeed in college, work and life will benefit individuals and society for decades to come. But, if we fail to act, prospects for the nation’s economic prosperity will be severely damaged, and today’s dropouts will become tomorrow’s poorly educated workers, struggling to find jobs and support their families.

About the Alliance for Excellent Education
The Alliance for Excellent Education is a national policy, advocacy, and research organization created to help all middle and high school students receive an excellent education. The Alliance focuses on America’s six million most at-risk secondary school students who are likely to leave school without a diploma or graduate unprepared for a productive future. Based in Washington, DC, the Alliance works to make it possible for these students to achieve at high academic levels and graduate prepared for college, the modern workplace, and citizenship. For more information, visit: