The Value of A High School Diploma

The Value of A High School Diploma

Some statistics:

18-24 year old Black men in Prison:

High School Drop Out        58%

GED                                         19.6%

High School Diploma        13.8%

Some College                       8.7%

18-24 year old Hispanic men in Prison:

High School Drop Out       61%

GED                                         16.2%

High School Diploma        12.5%

Some College                       1.5%

18-24 year old White men in Prison:

High School Drop Out        37%

GED                                         28.5%

High School Diploma        16.1%

Some College                       1.4%

Note the sharp drop in incarceration rates between drop outs and those who finished high school.  Even a GED isn’t  as good as a diploma. Sometimes it’s a lot less good.  And even a little college drops the rate even more sharply — to almost nothing for some groups  (all data on incarceration and educational attainment are from 2009).  I don’t have space to cite the data, but the same effect is not present for girls.  For boys, the diploma is make-or-break.   Now this:

Earning Potential (2015):

High School Drop Out:       $25,636/year

High School Diploma          $35,256/year

Some College/No Degree:  $38,376/year

Associate’s Degree:              $41,496/year

Bachelor’s Degree                $59,124/year


Unemployment Rates  (2015):

High School Drop Out:              8%

High School Diploma:               5.4%

Some College/No Degree:        5%

Associate’s Degree:                    3.8%

Bachelor’s Degree                      2.8%


The  number one priority of every school system should be graduating young men.  But we can’t wake up to that when they’re in 9th grade.  We need to throw more resources into the primary grades toward this end.  We need to start in Pre-K when the gaps in their learning are small and easier to overcome and intervene aggressively to bring them up to speed with their grade-level peers.  The future is too bleak not to do something.



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