Calculate Education's Impact

By Cheryl Mahoney

Just yesterday I was on here talking about the importance of education.  Today I found a tool to demonstrate exactly that.  I found the Common Good Forecaster.

United Way and the American Human Development Project use U.S. Census data to demonstrate the impact of education.  On their site, you can choose your state and even your county.  Statistics come up, regarding what percentage of the population achieves various stages of education: no high school diploma, high school graduation, some college work, or a college graduation.  It also shows statistics on things like life expectancy, murder rate, poverty level, and more.  By playing with the numbers re: education levels, you can watch the projected statistics change for everything else.


I tried it for San Francisco, CA.  First I found out that, overall, we have pretty good numbers for things like poverty and life expectancy.  We also have 50% college graduates among adults  (not entirely surprising, considering we have three universities and so many other colleges I can’t keep track).  When I started playing with the numbers, I found that if everyone moved up one education level (everyone currently without high school graduated, everyone who currently graduated high school attended college, etc.), the life expectancy rate rose more than a year, and the murder rate dropped by a third.  Almost 15,000 fewer people would be below the poverty line, and 40,000 more would vote.

The results aren’t surprising.  Essentially, more education means lower numbers on the bad things, higher numbers on the good.  But the Common Good Forecaster demonstrates it simply, visually and effectively.  It reminds me that it’s all inter-related: education, poverty, crime rate, health.  It’s easy to be focused on just one issue, but really they all go together.

What’s true here in America is true elsewhere too.  I’d love to see statistics like this for sub-Saharan Africa.  Imagine how their numbers could change if everyone graduated from high school.  I can’t make that happen myself–but there are ways to help.


One thought on “Calculate Education's Impact

  1. Thanks for the recent posts about education – very timely in this graduation season. They remind us, too, of what an impact an individual’s education can have not only on that person, but on their community.

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