Nearly sixty years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown versus Board of Education that the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place in the field of public education, the promise of an equal education remains unmet for too many of the nation’s students of color and Native students, according to a new brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education. Meeting the promise of Brown v. Board by graduating more of these students from high school would lead to dramatic economic growth nationwide, the brief finds.
“Brown versus Board of Education was about equity for every child; today’s report shows how Brown also pointed the way to economic success for the entire nation,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “It’s time for the nation to unlock the immense potential in every student and keep the promise that the Supreme Court made nearly sixty years ago. The nation’s students deserve it and our nation’s economy cannot prosper without it.”
These findings, contained in “Education and the Economy: Boosting the Nation’s Economy by Improving High School Graduation Rates Among Students of Color and Native Students ,” demonstrate the economic benefits the nation—as well as each state—would likely see by improving the high school graduation rates of students of color and Native students.
“Having access to a quality education is how we will see every child reach their potential,” said Janet Murguia, president and chief executive officer of the National Council of La Raza. “It’s incumbent on us, through both a moral imperative and as a country an economic imperative, to ensure that all children are able to learn and to succeed.”
Summary of Key Findings
Nationwide, an estimated 756,000 students of color and Native high school students dropped out from the Class of 2010. Cutting this number in half would yield 378,000 “new graduates,” who would likely have made additional contributions to the nation’s economy by
- spending $11 billion more on home purchases than what they would likely have spent without a high school diploma;
- supporting 30,000 new jobs and increasing the gross domestic product by as much as $5.4 billion by the time they reached the midpoint of their careers;
- earning $4.3 billion more in an average year, compared to what they would likely have earned without a high school diploma;
- boosting state tax revenues by $412 million in an average year; and
- spending $442 million more in an average year purchasing automobiles than what they would likely have spent without a high school diploma.
If these new graduates had earned a high school diploma, 38 percent of them would likely have continued on to some type of postsecondary education. However, only about 86,500 of them, or about 23 percent of all new graduates, would be expected to complete their studies.
The dollar amounts included in the study’s findings represent the economic returns from cutting the dropout rate for only one high school class. Increasing the graduation rates for future classes would likely create exponentially greater cumulative benefits.
“Equal education leads to good jobs that pay good wages that provide good benefits,” said Marc H. Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League. “It’s very simple: the higher your educational attainment levels are, the better you’re going to do in this society. We’ve got to really, really emphasize that connection with young people and emphasize that connection between a better-educated population, a better-educated citizenry, and a stronger economy for all.”
The publication, which was made possible through the generous support of State Farm®, builds on the Alliance’s previous work examining education and the economy and provides clear evidence that the best economic stimulus is a high school diploma.
“As a business leader I’m committed to a quality education for all children and to strengthening the vitality of our communities,” said Edward B. Rust, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of State Farm®. “These findings from the Alliance for Excellent Education conclusively demonstrate that graduating from high school has significant positive economic and financial benefits for the business community and not just for the individual getting the education. Assuring that all of our students graduate from high school with the skills necessary to compete in a global economy is something all businesses—small and large—should see as a priority.”
The brief notes that students of color and Native students are often concentrated in the lowest-performing high schools in the country. For example, students of color and Native students are six times more likely than their white peers to attend a “dropout factory,” one of the nearly 2,000 high schools that produce half the nation’s high school dropouts.
The need to provide access to the nation’s students of color and Native students is even more vital considering that these students are quickly moving from the minority of the student population to the majority. According to the brief, students of color and Native students already make up more than half the total number of students in twelve states. In ten additional states, students of color and Native students comprise between 40 and 50 percent of the student population.
“Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce,” Wise said. “The nation cannot afford to continue graduating just over half of the fastest-growing group of students. Helping all students unlock their potential means supplying them with an education that allows them to graduate from high school prepared for success in college or a career. Meeting this goal would mean a brighter future for students … and an economic windfall for the nation. Indeed, the best economic stimulus is a high school diploma.”
The economic model used to generate this report was developed by the Alliance for Excellent Education in partnership with Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. The complete publication, which includes individualized findings at the national and state levels for African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American students, is available at https://all4ed.org/files/EdEconBrief_sebsoc.pdf .