However, the research does come with one important caveat: Although women have significantly higher high school GPAs, men earn more in the workplace. For this reason, the investigators analyzed men and women separately.
Analysis of multiple levels of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, showed that a one-point increase in GPA doubles the probability of completing college — from 21 percent to 42 percent — for both genders.
Furthermore, as published in the Eastern Economic Journal, investigators found that a one-point increase in high school GPA raises annual earnings in adulthood by around 12 percent for men and 14 percent for women.
While researchers have known of the relationship between higher levels of education (college and graduate school) and greater earnings, the association between academic performance in high school and income has been obscure.
“Conventional wisdom is that academic performance in high school is important for college admission, but this is the first study to clearly demonstrate the link between high school GPA and labor market earnings many years later,” said Dr. Michael T. French, professor of health economics at the University of Miami (UM).
Researchers found that if GPA and other measures of performance are excluded from the analysis model, it gives the impression that African-American men achieve lower educational levels than their white counterparts.
But, when these predictors are part of the analyses, it demonstrates that African-American men and women attain higher educational levels than white students with the same high school GPA and background characteristics.
“The results suggest that African-Americans with poor high school GPAs are less likely to graduate from high school and attend college, but once GPA and other factors are included in the models, they are actually more likely than other races to graduate from college and continue to graduate school,” French said.
“One possible explanation for this finding is that African-Americans with relatively high GPAs are more motivated and determined than whites to attend college and obtain an advanced degree.”
The findings can have important implications for policymakers, teachers, and school administrators who wish to promote academic achievement for students.
“High school guidance counselors and teachers can use these findings to highlight the importance of doing well in high school for both short term (college admission) and longer term (earnings as an adult) goals,” French said.
The data set reviewed included high school records along with demographic and background information from more than 10,000 males and females. Educational attainment and income information was obtained when the respondents were between 24 and 34 years of age, approximately ten years after high school graduation.
Source: University of Miami