The U.S. 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.