Education is a means to a host of desirable ends. The ones we hear about most are education’s economic benefits—better jobs, bigger paychecks, and lower rates of unemployment, to name just a few. People with higher levels of education earn more and are less likely to be unemployed than those whose formal educations ended with high school; they are also concentrated in higher-paying occupations with better working conditions and benefits.
LA County lags behind the United States as a whole in educational attainment, in large part due to the comparatively large share of adults without a high school degree. Research by Measure of America and United Way Worldwide found that if all adults in Los Angeles County without high school diplomas magically received them, median personal earnings in the county would increase by $1,800, and about 150,000 fewer people would live in poverty.
For society as a whole, adult educational attainment is associated with less crime and lower incarceration rates. The civic education and critical thinking skills that schools aim to provide impart the values, norms, and habits of mind essential to living in a democracy, and higher levels of education are associated with greater civic engagement and political participation. For individuals, more education is associated with better health and longer life expectancy; more stable romantic relationships; more sensitive, responsive parenting; and greater ability to adjust to change. Measure of America research suggests that LA County life expectancy would increase by an estimated 1.5 years, the murder rate would fall by nearly 9 percent, and the voting rate would increase by almost 10 percent if all Los Angeles adults had graduated high school.