Fifty years ago, a high school diploma served as an entry to a number of promising career paths. Today, technological advances in the workplace have increased the demand for skilled labor to the point that a high school education is just a minimum requirement for entry into the labor force. Even so, the high school completion rate in the U-S hasn't changed over the last quarter-century. About half a million young people drop out of schools each year. Hispanics drop out at higher rates than other ethnic groups, and teens living in families with incomes in the lowest 20 percent are more likely to drop out. Teens who leave high school before graduation face a number of potential hardships. Research shows that dropouts earn only about 75 percent as much as high-school graduates and less than half of what a college grad is likely to make. Young women who drop out are more likely to have children at younger ages, more likely to become single parents, and to end up on public assistance. At the same time, most high-paying jobs require increasingly advanced skills and technical knowledge. A G-E-D is an alternative for anyone age 16 or older who's out of school without a high school diploma. There are preparatory classes available in a number of settings, including on cable and public T-V stations. Although some school districts and legislatures are successfully targeting teenage dropouts, the most important factor is the influence of parents.
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