The median annual income for a high school dropout, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest report on the role of education in employment and lifelong earnings. The average dropout earns 60 percent less than counterparts with some college education, and 74 percent less than bachelor’s degree grads.

32 percent

The median income gap between full-time working high school dropouts and counterparts with some college education. The gap is even greater — 52 percent — between dropouts and four-year collegians. The gaps are wider than the 24 percent gap between black and white workers, the equivalent gap between women and men working full-time, and the 26 percent gap between full-time workers age 25-29 and those age 60-64 heading into retirement.

$1.4 million

The median synthetic lifetime earnings of a white male high school dropout with a full-time job. That’s $541,983 less than a counterpart with some college education and 49 percent less (or $1.4 million less) than a collegian with a baccalaureate degree. Given that only 38 percent of dropouts work full-time jobs, white male dropouts are unlikely to earn even that much.

$1.1 million

The median synthetic lifetime earnings of a black high school dropout with a full-time job. That’s 30 percent less than earnings for a counterpart with some college education — and $1 million less than a collegian with a bachelor’s degree. Again, given that few dropouts work full-time, it’s more likely that a black male dropout will earn just $821, 293 in his lifetime. Earnings for all black males are brought down by the high level of dropouts, as one of every two young black men entering high school drop out before graduation.


The gap between earnings for a Latino male dropout working full-time and his counterpart with some college education. The gap between Latino male dropouts and baccalaureate collegians is 45 percent, which grows as a grad attains graduate degrees.


Now, more than ever, what you know is more-important than what you can do with your hands. As the Census Bureau data is pointing out, the income gap between wealthy, middle class and poor Americans is less about tax codes and more about the reality that higher-earning people are more-likely to have gotten the college preparatory education — and more-likely to at least attend some form of higher education — than those who are mired in poverty.

And, as this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast makes clear, President Barack Obama’s $450 billion stimulus plan (including $60 billion for allegedly avoiding teacher layoffs and fixing up school buildings) will do little to deal with the problems of joblessness — especially the 13 million dropouts who are either not working or underemployed — that will burden taxpayers for decades to come. Nor will it address the long-term consequences of the nation’s education crisis on economic and social growth, including in the black and Latino communities that will make up the majority of American citizens by mid-century. The fact that young men of all races lag behind in nearly every educational indicator except math, means even more economic and social instability, especially as young male dropouts can’t find meaningful work.

Reforming American public education is the most-important long-term solution to addressing income gaps and stemming poverty. Ignoring this reality merely means more Americans who can’t get jobs and won’t earn enough to sustain our nation’s economy.