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Educational, Economic Achievement Gaps Correlated, Reports Find

Resource type: News

Philanthropy News Digest |

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According to two new independently released reports, achievement and high school graduation gaps may be costing the United States trillions of dollars in unrealized gross domestic product and are threatening its ability to compete in the twenty-first century global economy.

Prepared for the America’s Promise Alliance by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center,Cities in Crisis 2009: Closing the Graduation Gap (33 pages, PDF), a follow-up to the original Cities in Crisis report released in April 2008, calculates that only 53 percent of young people in the nation’s largest cities are graduating from high school on time, compared with 71 percent nationally. The report also found that the median income for high school dropouts in the largest U.S. cities is $14,000, compared with $24,000 for high school graduates and $48,000 for college graduates. Nationally, high school dropouts are the only group of workers who saw their income levels decline over the last thirty years.

A second report, The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools (24 pages, PDF), from international consulting firm McKinsey & Company, quantifies the cost of the achievement gap both within the United States and in terms of competition with other high-performing nations. Among other things, the report calculates that closing the educational achievement gap between white U.S. students and their African-American and Latino peers could increase annual GDP by as much as $525 billion, or about 4 percent. The report also found that closing the gap between the U.S. and countries such as South Korea and Finland could boost annual GDP by as much as $2.3 trillion, or 16 percent. The calculations were based on the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment, an international comparison of fifteen-year-olds that ranked the United States twenty-fifth out of thirty nations in math and twenty-fourth in science.

Existing achievement gaps, the report noted, have “created the equivalent of a permanent, deep recession in terms of the gap between actual and potential output in the economy.”

Tomsho, Robert. “ Study Tallies Education Gap’s Effect on GDP.” Wall Street Journal 4/22/09.

“ Cities in Crisis 2009: Closing the Graduation Gap.” America’s Promise Alliance Press Release 4/22/09.

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