Earnings of High School Graduate vs Dropout
Studying earnings of a high school graduate vs dropout shows significant disparities.
In today's competitive job market, earnings depend on a wide range of factors. One of the most consistently important is education. A recent study by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University demonstrated the ways in which a high school diploma contributes to a lifetime of increased financial security. Comparing the earnings of a high school graduate vs a dropout shows that graduates out-earn dropouts by more than a third. The median lifetime earnings for a high school graduate in the period studied came to just over $1.3 million, while the median figure for dropouts was approximately $970,000 (http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/collegepayoff-summary.pdf )
There are three main reasons for this earnings gap. The first is that high school dropouts tend to work in lower-paying jobs compared to graduates. In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that high school graduates had median weekly earnings of $638, compared to $451 for those without a high school diploma. (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm) Dropouts have access to fewer jobs, and those they are able to find are often in lower-paying fields such as maintenance, cleaning, retail and food service. For example, the Georgetown study left dropouts out of the lucrative science and technology field altogether, while showing a median lifetime earnings of $2 million for high school graduates in this field.
The second contributor to the higher earnings of a high school graduate vs a dropout is unemployment. Although unemployment is high, it isn't distributed evenly across all sectors of the job market. Industries that commonly employ high school dropouts are being hit particularly hard, while those with higher educational requirements are comparatively safer. In hard times, employers often tend to hire employees more carefully, and education is one of the factors in their screening. The same Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis showed that unemployment among high school dropouts in 2011 was 14.1%, significantly above the national average and 50% higher than the unemployment rate for high school graduates.
Finally, even high school dropouts who manage to stay employed and get jobs in well-paid industries don't earn as much as their more educated colleagues. Even in fields where dropouts participated, such as managerial services, they earned less over their lifetimes than graduates. High school graduates in the managerial and professional field had median lifetime earnings of approximately $1.7 million, compared to only $1.4 million for dropouts.
Looking at the earnings of a high school graduate vs a dropout clearly shows the advantages enjoyed by graduates. Dropouts are less likely to find work and more likely to work in low-paying fields. Even when they find employment in lucrative fields, they earn less than those who have completed a high school diploma.
Share the Wealth
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