That’s what the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, says the U.S. economy will lose over the lifetimes of the high school dropouts who would have graduated in 2008.
And while our economy could certainly use a boost, it’s the dropouts who will see the biggest financial impact over their lives: In 2005, the average annual income for a high school dropout in 2005 was $17,299, compared to $26,933 for a high school graduate — nearly $10,000 less each year — according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Some 1.2 million students started high school in 2004 but failed to graduate this year.
The Alliance, which is led by former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, has produced a package of statistics that should be required reading for all high school students.
It shows that if the U.S. and individual states could increase their four-year graduation rates, even modestly, the savings in expenses related to health care, welfare and other social benefits, and crime would be significant. Nationally, the on-time graduation rate is just over 70 percent, but it ranged from 45 percent in Nevada to 83 percent in New Jersey in the 2004-05 school year.
“Each class of high school dropouts damages the economy,” Wise said in a press release. “The best economic stimulus package is to increase the number of students who earn a high school diploma.”
Of course, as the report notes, the groups with the highest likelihood of dropping out are often the hardest to reach: blacks, Hispanics, males, students from low-income families, and students who are low achievers.
Meanwhile, California, the state that has suffered from a chronic economic downturn in recent years, may actually see some economic relief — which will in turn help public schools — through its new law allowing gay marriages.
A study by the University of California at Los Angeles says that some 55,000 gay and lesbian couples, 22,000 from out of state, will marry this year. Those planned wedding celebrations already have led to a spike in business for caterers, hotels, florists, and all wedding-related industries. If the weddings aren’t stymied by a state constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall, the largess could total $684 million in the next three years, according to the UCLA study.
Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor