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From the Scranton Times:

Lackawanna County residents who have dropped out of high school are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as those who have received a high school diploma — and four times as likely as those who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to a study released Thursday.

The study, by Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, highlights the wide disparities among household income and the unemployment and poverty rates between those who dropped out of high school and those who furthered their education.

“It’s a very dramatic financial impact,” said Joan Benso, the organization’s president and chief executive officer. “The notion you could live on $14,982 — as an adult, and potentially support a family — is pretty much beyond concept.”

The $14,982 figure is the average amount a high school dropout makes in Lackawanna County — $10,000 less than what people whose highest education is a high school diploma earn. Those with a graduate or professional degree earn an average of $50,559 annually.

In Luzerne County, dropouts earn $16,850, less than half of the $40,333 someone earns with a bachelor’s degree. Monroe County dropouts earn $25,013.

The study cites data from the 2007 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. Statistics were not provided for the other Northeast Pennsylvania counties.

Other highlights included:

  • Lackawanna’s unemployment rate is 4 percent for those whose furthest education is a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma. The rate for someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 2.9 percent.
  • The gap widens in Luzerne and Monroe counties. In Luzerne, 10.9 percent of high school dropouts were unemployed, compared to 3.8 percent of high school graduates. In Monroe County, 22.3 percent of high school dropouts were unemployed, compared to 1.6 percent who had a bachelor’s degree.
  • Almost 25 percent of Lackawanna residents who did not complete high school lived in poverty, compared to 6 percent among those who have a bachelor’s degree. The 2008 federal poverty income guideline is $21,200 for a family of four.
  • In Luzerne County, 16.9 percent of high school dropouts live in poverty, more than double the percentage of those who live in poverty who attended some college or have an associate degree.

Dave Mitchell, a teacher at Scranton High School and the district’s adult education coordinator, said he sees people who want to obtain their GED for a variety of different reasons, including access to better-paying jobs.

At the Employment Opportunity and Training Center, employees assist people with varying education levels, from high school dropouts to those with advanced degrees, said Nina Olmedo-Foreman, workforce development team leader.

People who have the most trouble finding jobs are those without high school diplomas. Workplace training opportunities are also limited without a diploma.

“It’s very difficult, because most places at least want to see a GED,” she said.

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