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The Education of American Workers

Dropouts And High School Graduates

In general, high school dropouts and youth find it difficult to enter the job market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in College Enrollment and Work Activity of 2004 High School Graduates (March 2005), only 160,000 of the 496,000 (32.3%) of 2003–04 dropouts were in the labor force (employed or looking for work), 106,000 (21.4%) were unemployed, and 229,000 (46.3%) of dropouts were not in the labor force. In contrast, of the 2.8 million high school graduates in 2003–04, 1.3 million (46.6%) were employed, while 251,000 (9%) were unemployed, and 1.2 million (42.9%) were not in the labor force at all. Young people who were enrolled in college at the time are not included in these statistics.

Penalties of Not Graduating from High School

Without prior job experience or specialized training, dropouts often have difficulty finding jobs. In 2004, 267,000 out of the 496,000 high school dropouts (53.8%) were in the labor force, either working or looking for work. Labor force participation rates vary by gender and race/ethnicity. For example, in 2004 male high school dropouts were more likely to be in the labor force (166,000 out of 278,000; 59.7%) than female dropouts (100,000 out of 218,000; 45.9%). African-American dropouts were slightly more likely to be working or looking for work (50,000 out of 91,000; 54.9%) than white dropouts (196,000 out of 370,000; 53%). This was a reversal from previous surveys conducted every five years since 1980. In 2004 the overall rate of unemployment for high school dropouts was 39.9% (106,000 out of 496,000). (See Table 4.7.)

Additional topics

Jobs and Career OpportunitiesCareers and Occupations: Looking to the FutureThe Education of American Workers - A Better-educated Nation, Labor Force Participation, Dropouts And High School Graduates, Education And Earnings