Not graduating high school often leads to a number of undesirable consequences, both tangible and intangible. The goods news, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, is that graduation rates have improved over time. As of 2010, only 7.4 percent of people ages 16 to 24 hadn't earned a diploma or GED credential. This compared favorably to the 12.1 percent without a diploma in 1990. Despite the improvement, thousands of students fail to complete high school each year.


One of the main things that happens to high school dropouts is that, in many cases, they fail to get jobs. Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett indicated that unemployment among dropouts is three times higher than it is among people with at least a high school diploma. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2012 supports a common lack of employment opportunities without a diploma as well. Unemployment among non-graduates was 12.4 percent, compared to 8.3 percent with a diploma.


Students also face a higher likelihood of living in poverty if they don't graduate -- two times higher, according to an April 2010 "Congressional Research Service" report. Nearly 35 percent of dropouts ages 25 to 34 lived in poverty in 2008, compared to 16.7 percent of young adults with only a diploma. The bureau also indicated that weekly median pay in 2012 was $471without a diploma, significantly below median pay of $815 across all education levels.


Jail is the common landing spot for a remarkably high number of people who don't complete high school. Dropouts land in jail much more often than peers who earn diplomas. Additionally, an October 2009 study by Northeastern University indicated that people without a diploma are 63 percent more likely to become incarcerated than people who earn a bachelor's degree. The propensity to commit crimes may correlate with lack of education and knowledge, necessity based on lack of income or too much time to get in trouble because of a lack of employment.

Poor Health

Poor health is a common result of not graduating high school. In fact, Dr. Nicholas Freudenberg and Jessica Ruglis noted that the correlation between dropping out and poor health is even stronger than the relationship between dropping out and low income or unemployment in an October 2007 Center for Disease Control and Prevention article. The premise of the article was that dropping out should be considered a public health issue. Dropouts usually engage in riskier behaviors and have poorer nutrition and fitness habits than their more educated peers. They also have more restricted health care access because of modest insurance benefits.