Cities Where the Most (and Least) People Graduate High School

October 9, 2017 by Grant Suneson

The United States’ high school graduation rate rose to 83% for the 2014-2015 school year. But not all areas of the country are getting their students to earn diplomas at the same rate.

Graduating from high school is extremely important. It paves the way to better job opportunities and higher wages, and of course also to higher education. Using data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, 24/7 Wall St. identified the metro areas with the highest and lowest high school graduation rates.

There is a large disparity between the top graduation rates and the worst. In Sebring, Florida, the metro area with the lowest graduation rate in the 2014-2015 school year, just 64% of high school students received their diplomas on time. That is a far cry from the 95.2% high school graduation rate in the Wichita Falls, Texas metro area.

Having a diploma is much more than just a fancy sheet of paper. It can be a strong indicator of how much money someone will make in their career. For high school graduates nationwide, the typical income increases by more than $20,000 compared to those who did not finish high school.

Aside from likely curbing earning potential, not graduating from high school also limits future educational opportunities, like attending college. Areas with lower shares of adults with high school diplomas generally have lower percentages of residents with a bachelor’s degree.

Graduation rates do not just affect how much someone is paid, but they can also indicate how likely someone is to be employed. In all 25 areas with the lowest graduation rates, the unemployment rate is higher than the national jobless rate.

To determine the graduation rates of U.S. metro areas, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. High school graduation rates are defined as the percentage of the ninth-grade cohort that graduates in four years. The data represents students graduating on time in the 2014-2015 school year and is the most recent provided. The estimate of the median income for adults with less than a high school diploma and the percentage of people with at least a bachelor’s degree come from the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The August 2017 unemployment rate came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the case where cohort size was not available through County Health Rankings, the size of the 2014-2015 class cohort was estimated based on the number of 17 and 18 year olds, as provided by the Census Bureau.

Click here to see where the least people graduate high school.
Click here to see where the most people graduate high school.

Cities Where the Least People Graduate High School

Source: Thinkstock

25. Salem, OR
> High school graduation rate: 74.7%
> August unemployment rate: 4.8%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $23,106
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 25.1%

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Source: Richard David Ramsey / Wikimedia Commons

24. Hammond, LA
> High school graduation rate: 74.0%
> August unemployment rate: 6.3% (highest 10%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $19,932
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 20.1% (lowest 25%)

Source: Thinkstock

23. Tucson, AZ
> High school graduation rate: 73.9%
> August unemployment rate: 4.5%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $19,220 (lowest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 31.9%

Source: Thinkstock

22. Jackson, MS
> High school graduation rate: 73.6%
> August unemployment rate: 4.4%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $19,299
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 29.9%

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Source: Thinkstock

21. Columbus, OH
> High school graduation rate: 73.2%
> August unemployment rate: 4.3%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $20,565
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 36.0% (highest 25%)

Source: Thinkstock

20. Yakima, WA
> High school graduation rate: 73.1%
> August unemployment rate: 5.8% (highest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $22,107
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 15.9% (lowest 10%)

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19. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL
> High school graduation rate: 72.9%
> August unemployment rate: 4.4%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $21,435
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 23.9%

18. Elmira, NY
> High school graduation rate: 72.8%
> August unemployment rate: 5.2%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $14,785 (lowest 10%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 21.9%

Source: Thinkstock

17. Eugene, OR
> High school graduation rate: 72.1%
> August unemployment rate: 5.0%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $23,014
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 28.8%

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Source: Thinkstock

16. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV
> High school graduation rate: 72.0%
> August unemployment rate: 5.2%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $25,446 (highest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 23.3%

Source: Thinkstock

15. Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA
> High school graduation rate: 72.0%
> August unemployment rate: 4.9%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $22,061
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 24.4%

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Source: Thinkstock

14. Farmington, NM
> High school graduation rate: 71.8%
> August unemployment rate: 7.7% (highest 10%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $25,635 (highest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 16.6% (lowest 10%)

Source: Thinkstock

13. Panama City, FL
> High school graduation rate: 71.8%
> August unemployment rate: 4.0%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $14,311 (lowest 10%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 22.8%

Source: Thinkstock

12. Columbia, SC
> High school graduation rate: 71.3%
> August unemployment rate: 4.5%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $19,628
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 32.9%

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Source: Thinkstock

11. Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC
> High school graduation rate: 71.1%
> August unemployment rate: 4.7%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $19,323
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 23.8%

Source: Kirt Edblom / Flickr

10. Albany, OR
> High school graduation rate: 70.9%
> August unemployment rate: 5.2%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $19,303
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 37.4% (highest 25%)

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Source: Thinkstock

9. Fairbanks, AK
> High school graduation rate: 69.5%
> August unemployment rate: 5.5% (highest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $40,709 (highest 10%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 31.5%

Source: Thinkstock

8. Grants Pass, OR
> High school graduation rate: 69.0%
> August unemployment rate: 5.9% (highest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $18,961 (lowest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 19.5% (lowest 25%)

Source: Thinkstock

7. Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL
> High school graduation rate: 69.0%
> August unemployment rate: 4.8%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $23,900
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 20.1% (lowest 25%)

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Source: Thinkstock

6. Santa Fe, NM
> High school graduation rate: 68.6%
> August unemployment rate: 5.4% (highest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $21,647
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 48.5% (highest 10%)

Source: Thinkstock

5. Niles-Benton Harbor, MI
> High school graduation rate: 68.2%
> August unemployment rate: 5.0%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $16,464 (lowest 10%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 28.3%

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4. Toledo, OH
> High school graduation rate: 67.2%
> August unemployment rate: 6.0% (highest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $19,828
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 27.1%

Source: Thinkstock

3. Albuquerque, NM
> High school graduation rate: 66.1%
> August unemployment rate: 6.1% (highest 10%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $20,111
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 31.8%

2. Carson City, NV
> High school graduation rate: 65.3%
> August unemployment rate: 4.7%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $24,085
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 20.4% (lowest 25%)

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Source: Thinkstock

1. Sebring, FL
> High school graduation rate: 64.0%
> August unemployment rate: 5.8% (highest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $18,852 (lowest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 31.0%

Cities Where the Most People Graduate High School

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25. Amarillo, TX
> High school graduation rate: 91.7%
> August unemployment rate: 3.1% (lowest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $24,520 (highest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 23.7%

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Source: Thinkstock

24. Gettysburg, PA
> High school graduation rate: 91.7%
> August unemployment rate: 3.9%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $25,039 (highest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 21.6%

23. Appleton, WI
> High school graduation rate: 91.9%
> August unemployment rate: 2.9% (lowest 10%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $26,486 (highest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 27.9%

Source: Thinkstock

22. Dubuque, IA
> High school graduation rate: 92.0%
> August unemployment rate: 3.1% (lowest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $20,563
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 29.1%

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Source: Thinkstock

21. Huntsville, AL
> High school graduation rate: 92.0%
> August unemployment rate: 3.7% (lowest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $18,944 (lowest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 36.8% (highest 25%)

Source: sporst / Flickr

20. Jackson, TN
> High school graduation rate: 92.1%
> August unemployment rate: 3.8% (lowest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $26,829 (highest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 19.1% (lowest 25%)

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

19. Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, AL
> High school graduation rate: 92.2%
> August unemployment rate: 4.9%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $15,302 (lowest 10%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 16.5% (lowest 10%)

Source: Thinkstock

18. Wausau, WI
> High school graduation rate: 92.3%
> August unemployment rate: 3.1% (lowest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $17,934 (lowest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 24.7%

Source: Thinkstock

17. Iowa City, IA
> High school graduation rate: 92.4%
> August unemployment rate: 2.8% (lowest 10%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $25,652 (highest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 49.1% (highest 10%)

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16. St. Joseph, MO-KS
> High school graduation rate: 92.5%
> August unemployment rate: 3.8% (lowest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $17,216 (lowest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 26.5%

Source: Thinkstock

15. Florence-Muscle Shoals, AL
> High school graduation rate: 92.6%
> August unemployment rate: 4.7%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $22,916
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 20.7% (lowest 25%)

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Source: Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

14. Bowling Green, KY
> High school graduation rate: 92.6%
> August unemployment rate: 4.7%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $22,000
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 26.5%

Source: Thinkstock

13. Bloomington, IN
> High school graduation rate: 92.8%
> August unemployment rate: 4.6%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $21,031
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 38.9% (highest 25%)

Source: Prussian_Fool / Wikimedia Commons

12. Dothan, AL
> High school graduation rate: 93.1%
> August unemployment rate: 4.3%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $18,828 (lowest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 17.6% (lowest 10%)

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Source: Larry D. Moore – Wikimedia Commons

11. Tyler, TX
> High school graduation rate: 93.4%
> August unemployment rate: 4.1%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $20,537
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 24.9%

10. Cumberland, MD-WV
> High school graduation rate: 93.5%
> August unemployment rate: 5.4% (highest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $22,058
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 16.4% (lowest 10%)

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9. Muncie, IN
> High school graduation rate: 93.6%
> August unemployment rate: 5.1%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $30,103 (highest 10%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 22.6%

Source: Thinkstock

8. Ames, IA
> High school graduation rate: 93.7%
> August unemployment rate: 2.4% (lowest 10%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $29,008 (highest 10%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 54.8% (highest 10%)

Source: Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons

7. Longview, TX
> High school graduation rate: 93.8%
> August unemployment rate: 5.2%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $21,772
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 19.8% (lowest 25%)

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Source: Thinkstock

6. Sheboygan, WI
> High school graduation rate: 93.9%
> August unemployment rate: 2.8% (lowest 10%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $32,931 (highest 10%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 24.5%

Source: Home4tnindustry / Wikimedia Commons

5. Morristown, TN
> High school graduation rate: 93.9%
> August unemployment rate: 3.9%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $18,568 (lowest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 17.1% (lowest 10%)

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Source: Thinkstock

4. California-Lexington Park, MD
> High school graduation rate: 94.0%
> August unemployment rate: 4.1%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $32,189 (highest 10%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 26.1%

Source: Thinkstock

3. Clarksville, TN-KY
> High school graduation rate: 94.5%
> August unemployment rate: 4.8%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $18,602 (lowest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 22.8%

Source: ManuelHurtado / Thinkstock

2. Sherman-Denison, TX
> High school graduation rate: 94.6%
> August unemployment rate: 3.7% (lowest 25%)
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $22,462
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 42.0% (highest 10%)

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1. Wichita Falls, TX
> High school graduation rate: 95.2%
> August unemployment rate: 3.9%
> Median income, less than high school graduate: $17,422 (lowest 25%)
> Percent of adults with a college degree: 30.7%