Consequences of dropping out of high school include significantly reduced job opportunities, lower pay and social stigma. The percentage of citizens with high school and college diplomas has increased steadily throughout the 20th and 21st centuries; this trend has put high school dropouts further behind their better-educated peers.
Job opportunities for high school dropouts are significantly more scarce than those for graduates. This is true in good economic times and bad. In late 2012, for example, while the national unemployment rate in the United States stood at 8.1 percent, the rate for high school dropouts was 12 percent. For the sake of comparison, college graduates maintained a joblessness rate of only 4.1 percent. These numbers demonstrate that job opportunities increase with education. High school dropouts occupy the lowest rung on the education hierarchy.
Even when they can find jobs, high school dropouts earn significantly less than their peers with diplomas. The average high school dropout earns barely more than $20,000 per year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By contrast, the average high school graduate earns over $30,000 per year, and the average college graduate earns over $55,000 per year.
The social stigma for dropping out of high school is high. Compared to graduates, dropouts have higher poverty rates, higher incarceration rates and are less likely to be married.