Earlier this summer the American Human Development Project released a report exploring the impact of education. With the school year approaching it seemed an appropriate time to look at some of the report’s findings many of which reflect the data conclusions presented in The Measure of America: American Human Development Report, 2008-2009, edited by Sarah Burd-Sharps, Kristen Lewis, and Eduardo Borges Martins.
In connection with the report, the American Human Development Project has also launched a Common Good Forecaster, which allows users to see how higher levels of education would affect life expectancy, poverty and income levels, and voting, murder, and incarceration rates in their states and communities. For instance, I live in King’s County (Brooklyn) in New York in which 23% of the population has less than a high school degree, if that number went down to 10%, the murder rate would drop from 9.4 murder per 100,000 to 8.8 per 100,000; unemployment would go from 6.2% to 5.8% and the poverty rate from 18.3% to 16.7%. While these percentages might seem small, taken on a national level more people getting a high school diploma would have a profound effect on the common good.
Higher educational attainment not only means better jobs and better paychecks but is also linked to “better physical and mental health, longer lives, fewer crimes, less incarceration, more voting, greater tolerance and brighter prospects for the next generation.” The report breaks down the statistics behind the importance of education and also analyzes the data along racial lines. Here are some of the key findings from the report:
Murder: A one-year increase in the average level of schooling in a community is associated with a 30 percent decrease in the murder rate.
Obesity: Obesity has increased among all Americans, yet the more educated are less likely to be overweight or obese.
Income: The median annual earnings of Americans 25 and over who did not complete high school are less than $18,500, while those who completed high school typically earn early $26,000. College graduates earn $44,000 annually, and those with graduate or professional degrees typically earn $57,500
Poverty: Education is the single most important factor in the determination of a person’s poverty status: almost 24 percent of the adult population without a high school diploma is poor, compared to 11 percent of those who are high school graduates and only 3.6 percent of college graduates.
Unemployment: The less education a person has, the more likely he or she is to be unemployed. A high school dropout is four times more likely to be unemployed than a college graduate.
Incarceration: Nearly three-quarters of state inmates did not complete high school; fewer than three percent completed college or more.