High school grades predict earnings

High school grades matter — not just for college success but also for adult earnings — concludes a University of Miami study published in the Eastern Economic Journal. A person’s grade-point average in high school predicts the odds of starting and finishing college and graduate school, the study found. It also predicts earnings 10 years after high school.

one-point increase in GPA predicts a 12 percent jump in earnings for men, 14 percent for women, reports the Washington Post. It also doubles the likelihood of completing college, the study found.

Average earnings in adulthood vs. high school GPAAfrican-Americans were more likely to go to college and graduate school than whites with similar GPAs and background characteristics, said Michael T. French, professor of health economics, who led the research team. It’s possible “African-Americans with relatively high GPAs are more motivated and determined,” he speculated.

However higher high school grades didn’t lead to higher earnings for black adults, the Post reported. Limited opportunities for minorities or a choice to go into lower-paying fields could explain that, French said.

Too few engineering majors?

A former colleague thinks the Washington Post‘s graph is too neat to be real. Here’s the University of Miami researchers’ graph, which seems to have the same data arranged horizontally.


Dhara Patel will graduate from a rural Florida high school with a 10.03 GPA, due to weighted grades for AP and community college courses. (I’ve never heard of a weighted “A” being worth more than 5 points.) She’s already earned an associate degree. Patel is active in student government and high school clubs and volunteers at a local hospital, reports TakePart. And, yes, she’s the valedictorian.

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  1. Blacks are more likely to go to college and graduate school than whites with similar GPA because of the strong racial preferences for blacks in college and graduate school admissions. However it is very difficult to change earnings rankings of different ethnic groups by even very strong racial/ethnic quotas and preferences.
    For examples many decades of discrimination in Malaysia against ethnic Chinese in university admissions and governmental jobs in favor of Malays has done little to alter the economic domainance of the Chinese in Malaysia.
    Although there is very intense discrimination against East Asians in university admissions in the US it is probably a very safe bet that earnings of East Asians in the US will exceed all other groups other than Ashkenazi Jews. That is pretty much the worl-wide pattern whereever significant populations of East Asians exist.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      Had an ethnic Chinese kid from Malaysia in our system through American Field Service. She was bright, but couldn’t get into a uni in Malaysia due to their version of the Gentlemen’s Agreement.
      So she came back and got a BS in Chem Eng at a top-tier uni in the midwest, and a MS in same from another good school. Got a good job, married an American and we win, Malaysia loses.

  2. Then grade inflation is a good thing, right? Higher grades for all–>higher incomes for all? Which would just mean higher costs for all and general inflation. Oh, well,

  3. Then the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences is the originator of the crime and the Eastern Economic Journal is complicit having put the article through their peer review process and published it.

  4. It’s obviously genetic.