According to a study by the Alliance for Excellent Education, more than 7000 American students drop out of school every day. In a year, that means over 1.3 million will quit school without earning a diploma. The Alliance brief states that high school dropouts will experience higher unemployment rates and reduced earnings compared to those with more education. According to data published in the brief from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in August 2011, high school dropouts had an unemployment rate of 14.3 percent, while the rate for graduates was 9.6 percent.
Why Students Drop Out
Boost Up, a high school dropout prevention campaign, reports that dropping out is often the result of a long, frustrating process. Sometimes, there are visible warning signs, such as drug or alcohol issues or frequent absences. Students may quit because of failing grades or classes that they feel lack relevance. Sometimes, deeper family issues cause students to quit school, such having to work to or care for a sibling, becoming a teen parent, low expectations or a lack of parental support.
The rate of unemployment for high school dropouts has always been higher than graduates. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 1980, graduates had a 12.5 percent unemployment rate, while the rate for dropouts was more than double, at 25.3 percent. In 1990, the rate for dropouts was 20.5 percent compared to 11.7 percent for graduates. In 2000, it was 17.7 percent and 9.1 percent respectively and in 2010, the unemployment rate for dropouts was about 7 percent more than for graduates.
Workers Over 25 Years of Age
The lack of a high school diploma affects workers into adulthood. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that from 2012 to 2013, the unemployment rate for those over 25 years of age without a high school diploma hovered between 11 and 12 percent, peaking at 12.5 percent in April 2012. Compare that to high school graduates, whose highest rate during the same time frame was much less, at 8.1 percent.
Those without high school diplomas will most likely continue to see the highest unemployment rates due to slower job growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that while overall employment is projected to increase about 14 percent from 2010 to 2020, more than half a million of these jobs will require some post-secondary education. Of the occupations with the largest percentage of growth projected for 2020, 26 out of 30 will require at least a high school diploma.
- Alliance for Excellent Education: The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools
- Boost Up: Why Students Drop Out
- Table A-4. Employment status of the civilian population 25 years and over by educational attainment
- Occupational Employment: Employment Outlook: 2010–2020
- United States Census Bureau: Table 274. Employment Status of High School Graduates and Dropouts Not Enrolled in School by Sex and Race: 1980 to 2010
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