To find out just how much of an impact high school graduation rates have on the country at large, the Alliance for Excellent Education calculated a series of projections using economic data from 220 metropolitan areas, all 50 states, and Washington, D.C.
We took their final data and, along with Visualizing.org, challenged graphic designers to create an infographic that clearly depicts the connection between diplomas and dollars. The winning entry, by Jonathan Schwabish and Courtney Griffith, is below.
But first, a word from Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia and the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education.
It’s fairly understood that individuals with higher levels of education typically earn more than those without. Put simply, those who learn more, earn more.
With this project, however, the Alliance for Excellent Education, with support from State Farm®, sought to demonstrate how we all benefit when someone graduates from high school. The results are tremendous - cutting the dropout rate in half for just one high school class would likely lead to billions of dollars in increased earnings, provide a boost to home and automobile sales, and create more than 50,000 new jobs nationwide. That’s an economic stimulus - and jobs package - that everyone can support.
The infographic above demonstrates the specific economic returns for the nation as a whole, as well as for individual states and the 52 metro areas with more than one million people. Additional data for more than 220 metro areas is available at here.
So whether you know someone in school or not, it is in your financial interest - and that of your community - that the nation’s high schools graduate their students with a diploma that prepares them to succeed in college or a career. The United States has benefited from previous investments in education such as the G.I. Bill, which helped America become the best-educated nation in the world.
But we’re starting to slip. Well-educated baby boomers are beginning to retire and we need qualified workers to replace them. Without qualified workers to create new products and fill high-level jobs, the nation’s economy struggles. At the same time, many entry-level jobs are going overseas or being filled by machines.
Today, more than 60 percent of current jobs require some education after high school, but more than one million students every year don’t even earn a high school diploma. This dropout crisis affects students of all races, ethnic backgrounds, and income levels. It also affects students in every state and locale across the nation - from rural Mississippi to urban areas like Chicago and New York City.
Politicians and policymakers at every level are grappling with ways to cut budget deficits, but as this study shows, decisions on how to close budget gaps and build a strong economy must begin with ensuring that more students graduate from high school. With a high school diploma, an individual will earn more than his or her counterpart who drops out. And that additional money isn’t going under a mattress; it will be put to good use within the community by purchasing homes, automobiles, groceries, clothing, and more.
Put simply, everyone wins - from the individual student to the bank branch manager, new car salesman, or department store worker - when more students graduate from high school. Diplomas mean dollars.
Bob Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia.
All statements and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors, and not of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or NBC News.