Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin brand, is famous for having dropped out of high school and finding success in spite of it. Branson, however, is very much an exception to the rule. Generally, high school dropouts are negatively affected in a number of ways, including employment options and chances of incarceration.


One way in which people are affected by their decision to drop out of high school is a greater chance of being unemployed. The unemployment rate for young high school dropouts was roughly 54 percent in 2008, according to a report from the Center for Labor Market Studies. The same report states that the unemployment rate for those who merely completed high school was significantly lower, only 32 percent.

Lower Income

When high school dropouts do find employment, they earn, on average, significantly less than those who completed high school. A 2006 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development stated that high school dropouts in America earned a mere 65 percent of what their peers who completed high school earned. Of all the countries included in the report, the difference between these two groups was the largest in the United States.


Incarceration in some sort of correctional facility, such as a jail or juvenile detention center, is also a more likely scenario for high school dropouts. According to the Center for Labor Market Studies, only one percent of students who complete high school end up incarcerated between the ages of 16 and 24. However, 6.3 percent of high school dropouts end up incarcerated at some point between the ages of 16 and 24.

Missed Opportunities

Another, less tangible consequence of dropping out of high school is missing all the different opportunities that come about as a result of finishing high school. High school is a good place to explore intellectual interests, play team sports and meet friends. By completing high school, students can also go on to a post-secondary school and further expand on those opportunities. Even if they choose not to, they leave that option open for later in life.