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Why Is a High School Diploma Necessary?

by Ralph Heibutzki

On a basic level, a high school diploma is necessary because it provides the opportunity to earn more than entry-level wages. Getting a diploma also opens the door to other rewarding long-term career opportunities, whether it's college, trade school or a certified work program. A Pew Partnership for Civic Change study suggests that high school graduates are also more likely to stay consistently employed and are better able to cope with adult responsibilities than dropouts.

Accumulation of Assets

One overlooked benefit of a high school diploma is the link between educational achievement and accumulation of such assets as businesses, cars, homes and savings accounts. A 2005 study by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research shows, for example, that households headed by high school graduates accumulate roughly 10 times more wealth than those headed by high school dropouts.

Better Job Prospects

Dropouts are more likely to be unemployed since a high school diploma is the minimum credential that most employers expect. As of February 2013, the national unemployment rate for dropouts aged 25 and over averaged 11.2 percent, versus 7.9 percent for high school graduates without college degrees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers aged 18 to 67 with a high school diploma or GED also earn about 58 percent more than high school dropouts, according to a U.S. Department of Education report issued in 2009.

Greater Independence

Graduating from high school increases the odds of breaking long-term poverty, chronic unemployment and dependence on social services. The Pew Partnership's 2006 study suggests that, as a group, dropouts are more likely to be unmarried or divorced, suffer from chronic health conditions like heart disease or obesity, and require public assistance to survive. In its 2009 report, the U.S. Department of Education noted that dropping out costs the economy in terms of greater criminal activity rates, higher reliance on social services and lower tax contributions.

Sense of Accomplishment

Earning a high school diploma offers a sense of accomplishment, particularly in areas with major dropout rates. A high school graduate is more likely to achieve other goals in life than a student who drops out. Lack of a diploma forecloses many other opportunities, such as enlisting in the U.S. military, leaving only the most menial jobs available.

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