logo for ODL Online   Oklahoma Literacy Resource Office

About ODL Oklahoma Libraries Library FYI Reference Desk Publications State Government Information U.S. Government Information Cartwright Law Library Literacy Programs

The Oklahoma Literacy Resource Office

Oklahoma
Dept. of Libraries

200 NE 18th St
Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma
73105-3298

(405) 522-3205
(405) 525-7804—FAX

Go to Oklahoma State Government Portal

 Literacy Fact Sheet:
Literacy and the Workplace

The U.S. economy reigned supreme in the 20th century, becoming the largest, most productive, and most competitive in the world; amazing new technologies were invented and commercialized; the workforce became the most educated in the world; and incomes soared while a large middle class emerged and thrived. As the 21st century approached, however, alarms began to sound about the U.S. economy’s ability to remain in this preeminent position.—The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2012

Links Between Education and the Workplace

  • Addressing the high school dropout crises is a key strategy for economic growth. Years of research repeatedly highlights the link between education and the economy. In a time of shrinking state revenues and in the wake of a national economic crises that profoundly affected those with the least education (In January, 2011 the unemployment rate among individuals without a high school diploma was more than three times the rate of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher) states must view education reform as a key strategy for strengthening the economy. Improving educational outcomes creates a wave of economic benefits that including boosting individual earnings, home and auto sales, job and economic growth, spending and investment, and tax revenues.—Alliance for Excellent in Education, 2011
  • Education drives the economy. America is losing its place as a world leader in education, and in fact is becoming less educated. Among the 30 Organization for Economic Development (OECD) free market countries, the U.S. is the only nation where young adults are less educated than the previous generation. The American economy requires that most workers have at least some postsecondary education or occupational training to be ready for current and future jobs in the global marketplace, yet we are moving further from that goal. By one set of measures, more than 88 million adults have at least one major educational barrier—no high school diploma, no college, or ESL needs. With the current U.S. labor force of about 150 million (16 and older), a troubling number of prime working age adults likely will fall behind in their struggle to get higher wage jobs, or to qualify for college courses or job training that will help them join or advance in jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage.—Reach Higher, America (pdf),National Commission on Adult Literacy, 2008
  • In 2010, individuals age 25 and older with less than a high school education earned, on average, $444 per week, as compared to $626 per week for those with a high school diploma, or $1,038 per week for those with a Bachelors’ degree. Additionally, those without a high school diplomas had an average unemployment rate of 14.9% as compared to 5.4% for those with a Bachelor’s degree.—Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011
  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau data released Tuesday, September 13th, 2011, the nation's poverty rate rose to 15.1% (46.2 million) in 2010, up from 14.3% (approximately 43.6 million) in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993. The poverty level for 2011 was set at $22,350 (total yearly income) for a family of four.
  • In 2010, the average annual income for an adult with no high school diploma was $23,088.
  • Educational attainment also appears to be cushioning workers from the worst impacts of the current economic crises, with unemployment hovering above 9 percent since 2009 into 2011. A snapshot of unemployment between August 2010 and August 2011 demonstrates that individuals with a  high school diploma are two times more likely to be unemployed than those with a Bachelor’s degree and higher, and less likely to be employed than individuals with some college or an Associate’s degree.—Pathway to Recovery, Jobs for the Future (pdf),2011

National Impact

  • Today, only 55 percent of people ages 16 to 29 have a job — the lowest percentage since World War II. A quarter of people between ages 25 and 34 are living with their parents, and statistics indicate that people under 35 are worth 68 percent less than they were 25 years ago.— Educated And Jobless: What's Next For Millennials?, National Public Radio, 2011
  • The United States is struggling to prepare U.S. students in math and science. In 2009, U.S. 15-year-olds had an average score of 487 on the mathematics literacy scale, which was lower than the OECD average score of 496. Seventeen OECD countries ranked above the United States in math, and some 11 other countries had scores that were not significantly different from the U.S. math score. Additionally, science and reading scores were only average and on an earlier assessment of student problem solving ability (2003 Program for International Student Assessment), U.S. students scored behind most of the other developed nations in the world.—The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States (pdf), U.S. Department of Commerce

The following information was taken from Education and the Economy: Boosting the Nation’s Economy by Improving High School Graduation Rates—Alliance for Excellent Education, 2011

An estimated 1.3 million students across all 50 states and the District of Columbia dropped out from the class of 2010 at great costs to themselves and their communities. If even half of these students would have graduated, the nation would have realized the following benefits:

  • $7.6 billion in increased earnings—Collectively, this single class of new graduates would likely earn as much as $7.6 billion more in an average year compared to their likely earnings without a high school diploma.
  • $5.6 billion in increased spending and $2 billion in increased investments—New graduates increased earnings, combined, would likely allow them to spend an additional $5.6 billion and invest an additional $2 billion.
  • $19 billion increased home sales and $741 million in increased auto sales—By the midpoint in their careers, these new graduates, combined, would like purchase homes totaling in value of as much as $19 billion more than what they otherwise would have spent without a diploma. In addition, they would likely spend up to an additional $741 million dollars in vehicle purchases during an average year.
  • 54,000 new jobs and $9.6 billion in economic growth—The additional spending by these new graduates combined, would be enough to support as many as 54,000 new jobs and increase the gross domestic product by as much as 9.6 billion by the time they reach their career midpoints.
  • $713 million in increased tax revenue—As a result of increased wages and higher levels of spending, state tax revenues would likely grow by as much as $713 million during an average year.
  • Increased human capital—After earning a high school diploma, 43% of these new graduates would likely continue on to pursue some type of postsecondary education, but only 173,100 students or 27% of all new graduates, are expected to complete their studies. Boosting the share of new school graduates who complete postsecondary programs to 60% (President Obama’s goal for the nation) would increase the number of postsecondary graduates to 390,300.

Oklahoma Impact

The following information was taken from Education and the Economy: Boosting Oklahoma’s Economy by Improving High School Graduation Rates—Alliance for Excellent Education, 2011

An estimated 14,400 Oklahoma students dropped out from the class of 2010 at great costs to themselves and their communities. If even half of these students would have graduated, Oklahoma would have realized the following benefits:

  • $69 million in increased earnings—This single class of new graduates would likely earn as much as $69 million more in an average year compared to their likely earnings without a high school diploma.
  • $52 million in increased spending and $16 million in increased investments—New graduates increased earnings, combined, would likely allow them to spend an additional $52 million and invest an additional $16 million.
  • $97 million increased home sales and $7.3 million in increased auto sales—By the midpoint in their careers, these new graduates, combined, would like purchase homes totaling in value of as much as $97 million more than what they would otherwise would have spent without a diploma. In addition, they would likely spend up to an additional $7.3 million dollars in vehicle purchases during an average year.
  • 500 new jobs and $81 million in economic growth—The additional spending by these new graduates combined, would be enough to support as many as 500 new jobs and increase the gross state product by as much as $81 million by the time they reach their career midpoints.
  • $4.6 million in increased tax revenue—As a result of increased wages and higher levels of spending, state tax revenues would likely grow by as much as $4.6 million during an average year
  • Increased human capital—After earning a high school diploma, 42% of these new graduates would likely continue on to pursue some type of postsecondary education, but only 1,800 students or 25% of all new graduates, are expected to complete their studies. Boosting the share of new school graduates who complete postsecondary programs to 60% (President Obama’s goal for the nation) would increase the number of postsecondary graduates to 4,300.

The estimated additional lifetime income, if Oklahoma dropouts had graduated high school with their class in 2011, is $1,676,000,000!—The High Cost of High School Dropouts (pdf), Alliance for Excellent Education, 2011

Recommended Resources

Education and the Economy: Boosting Oklahoma’s Economy by Improving High School Graduation Rates (pdf)

Education and the Economy: Boosting the Nation’s Economy by Improving High School Graduation Rates (pdf)

Reach Higher, America: Overcoming the Crises in the U.S. Workforce (pdf)

Education and Work Life Earnings Estimates, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2011 (pdf)

The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2012 (pdf)

The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools, 2011 (pdf)


To contact staff of the Literacy Resource Office, use ODL's Staff Contact Form or Department Contact Form.

 

Top of Page

Return to Previous Page

ODL Online Logo
Copyright — All Rights Reserved
Oklahoma Department of Libraries