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More Than Half Of Older High School Dropouts Not Employed Today

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 02/21/12 01:33 PM ET  |  Updated: 02/21/12 07:24 PM ET

High School Dropout

You know the old advice about staying in school so you can get a job? It's more true now than ever.

More than half of the high school dropouts in America above age 25 are currently out of work, according to The Wall Street Journal. Americans who didn't finish high school seem to be bearing the brunt of the country's unemployment crisis: About 1.8 million college graduates have found work since January 2010, the WSJ reports, but 128,000 high school dropouts have lost their jobs during the same period.

The data is indicative of a broader reality about the nation's slow climb back from the depths of recession. Unemployment is falling and business leaders seem increasingly optimistic about the country's economic direction, but for a wide swath of Americans -- those who can't afford rent, those who struggle to buy food, and those who lack the cash cushion to weather a financial emergency -- the recovery has not yet taken hold.

While Americans of every education level are struggling to find work, those who haven't graduated from college seem to be at a distinct disadvantage.

The unemployment rate for college graduates is just 4.2 percent, but the unemployment rate for high school graduates is 8.4 percent -- twice as high, and more closely matching the overall national jobless rate of 8.3 percent. The picture is even worse for high school dropouts, 13.1 percent of whom are out of work -- more than one in every eight.

At the same time, research indicates that once a person loses their job, their level of education may do little to help them get a new one. High school dropouts and advanced degree holders are equally at risk for long-term unemployment, according to a Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative study published earlier this month.

The gradual erosion of manufacturing and other blue-collar jobs in the U.S. means that fewer and fewer opportunities exist for Americans who don't go on to higher education.

That's one of the reasons why high school drop outs are becoming increasingly living lives marked by deprivation. Research shows that students who come from impoverished backgrounds are more likely to drop out of school, and their lifelong earning power takes a serious hit as a result. High school dropouts stand to earn about $400,000 less over the next five decades than their peers who earned a diploma, and they're twice as likely to end up living in poverty as Americans who have completed high school.

Overall, the employment rate for young adults ages 18 to 24 is the lowest it's been in sixty years.

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