LOS ANGELES, Calif.–Millions of dollars would flow back into the economy of the Greater Los Angeles area if just half of the high school students who dropped out last year completed their education, according to a study released today.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metropolitan statistical area was among 16 MSAs in the state analyzed by the nonprofit Alliance for Excellent Education, which studied the economic returns lost as a result of young people leaving school early.

“The best economic stimulus is a high school diploma,” said AEE President Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia. “From the individual student to the bank branch manager, new car salesman, or realtor, everyone wins when more students graduate from high school.”

According to the study, in January, the national unemployment rate was twice as high for workers without a high school diploma.

Research showed that in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metro area, 80,500 students dropped out of high school in the 2009-10 academic year.

“Cutting that number of dropouts in half for this single high school class could result in tremendous economic benefits to the region,” the study concluded.

According to its findings:
* The 40,250 “new graduates” would collectively earn as much as $592 million more in an average year;
* they would have an additional $432 million in aggregate spending power;
* their higher income would translate to $1.8 billion in increased home sales and $34 million in additional auto sales;
* the gross regional product would increase an estimated $845 million, supporting 5,100 new jobs; and,
* state and local tax revenue would grow $71 million in an average year.

According to the study, 62 of the metro area’s 317 high schools are among the “lowest-performing” in the nation because fewer than 60 percent of freshmen progress to their senior year.

The other MSAs studied were Bakersfield, Chico, Fresno, Modesto, Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Santa Barbara-Santa Maria, Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Santa Rosa-Petaluma and Stockton.