Thursday, July 3, 2008

Should We Decrease the Supply of High School Diplomas?

It is obligatory for politicians to call for an increase in the high school graduation rate. But if this actually happens who will benefit and who will lose?

Practically speaking, as the percentage of youngsters getting high school diplomas increases, the value of that credential decreases. In the job market its value depends on its scarcity. If everyone receives a diploma, for instance, the credential offers no competitive advantage.

Let’s suppose the politicos get their wish. What would happen? Youngsters who do not, perhaps cannot, go to college would be hardest hit. They depend on their high school diploma to open doors. So an increase in the graduation rate will create problems for every youngster counting on their high school diploma for competitive advantage.

Admittedly, even if they become more plentiful diplomas still retain a certain defensive utility. In other words, if nearly everyone has one, the absence of a diploma is a major handicap .

It might make more sense to toughen graduation requirements and actually reduce the number of diplomas issued. This would increase the diploma’s value and offer a boost to those who must depend on them.


For a more detailed examination of this and related issues See Dissecting School Benefits"

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