Worrisome statistic and chart of the day

Chris Farrell From chief economics correspondent Chris Farrell

In a McKinsey Global Institute study on U.S. multinational corporations this statistic stood out:

Forty years ago, the United States was a leader in high school graduation rates; today, it ranks 18th out of 24 industrialized nations.

This chart makes it visually clear that we’ve lost ground on high school graduation rates since the early ’70s.Since hitting 77% back then the high school completion rate has declined to 69%. Simply put, these are scary numbers.

Yet the rate of return on getting a high school diploma is very high. For instance, a suggestion paper by economists James J. Heckman, Lance J. Lochner, and Petra E. Todd suggests a 40% return on getting a high school diploma and some 65% for black men. (You can read the paper here.)

Here is an intriguing set of numbers trying to estimate the economic impact in Minneapolis of boosting the high school compeletion rate in the school system. I realize that these are guesstimates by the Alliance for Excellent Education (a good think tank on the issue), but I found this figure particularly striking:

The region would likely see increased human capital, with 53 percent of these new graduates likely continuing on to pursue some type of postsecondary education after earning a high school diploma.

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