Study measures dropouts' impact

Increasing graduation numbers will help economy, report predicts

If more people graduated high school instead of dropping out, many more homes and cars would be sold, thousands of jobs would be filled with qualified candidates and more money in general would flow throughout the country, according to a report released Tuesday by the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based think tank.

"The best economic stimulus is a high school diploma," Bob Wise, the president of the alliance and a former West Virginia governor, said in a statement. "From the individual student to the bank branch manager, new car salesman or Realtor, everyone wins when more students graduate from high school."

Nationally, 1.3 million students dropped out of the Class of 2010. In Georgia, that number was about 61,500, and in South Carolina an estimated 30,000, according to the report, "Education and the Economy: Boosting the Nation's Economy by Improving High School Graduation Rates."

The report essentially argues that high school graduates' earning power is higher than that of dropouts, therefore reducing the number of dropouts would help the economy.

If those dropout numbers had been cut in half -- 650,000 nationally, 30,750 in Georgia and 15,000 in South Carolina -- the following are estimated increases from the earning and spending power of more graduates:

- Home sales: $19 billion more nationally, $742 million more in Georgia and $345 million more in South Carolina

- Automobile sales: $741 million a year more nationally, $33 million in Georgia and $16 million in South Carolina

- New jobs: 54,000 supported nationally, 3,700 in Georgia and 1,000 in South Carolina

- Contribution to economic growth by the midpoint of their careers: as much as $9.6 billion nationally, $495 million in Georgia and $187 million in South Carolina

- Earnings increase with diploma: $7.6 billion a year nationally, $343 million in Georgia and $161 million in South Carolina

- Spending increase with diploma: $5.6 billion a year nationally, $256 million in Georgia and $121 million in South Carolina

- Investment increase: $2 billion a year nationally, $87 million in Georgia and $39 million in South Carolina

- State tax revenue increase: $713 million a year nationally, $26 million in Georgia and $13 million in South Carolina

"Decisions on how to close budget gaps -- both nationally and in states -- and build a strong economy must begin with ensuring better educational outcomes for the nation's students," Wise said. "There's been a lot of talk about how budget deficits threaten our children's future, but the best way to cut budget deficits is to cut dropout rates."

The report cites U.S. Census Bureau data, which show a high school dropout earned an average of $21,023 in 2008, compared with $31,283 for a high school graduate and $58,613 for someone with a bachelor's degree.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, high school dropouts are more than three times as likely to be unemployed as college graduates.

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