Educational attainment and economic development are intricately linked. A person’s wages over their lifetime can be predicted by earning a high school diploma or college degree. And, the collective impact of the educational attainment of a city’s residents predicts its economic growth. A highly educated population is likely to earn higher wages than those who are less educated. More earnings lead to increased consumer spending and tax revenue for the city.
In a metropolitan area like Memphis, we find this to be especially true. A recent study by the Alliance for Excellence in Education1 suggests that reducing the number of high school dropouts by half in Memphis, can lead to significant economic growth. The findings predict that 3,600 additional graduates in the city would mean $42 million in increased earnings and $4.3 million in increased tax revenue. The spending and investments by these graduates would be enough to support nearly 350 new jobs and increase the gross regional product (GRP) by as much as $56 million by the time they reach their career midpoints. And, nearly half of these high school graduates would be likely to pursue some type of post-secondary credential.
These predictions show that educational opportunity is essential to building a stronger economy. High school and post-secondary success are most certainly key factors, but looking at the bigger picture, striving for educational excellence should start much earlier. Mayor A C Wharton, Jr., a proponent of early childhood education said, “…The city government has a major role in the broader education process, meaning investing in early childhood education. I think the City of Memphis could plow (the money) into support of family issues like job readiness, rehabilitation, literacy, healthcare, etc. Every child should have access to an accredited day care center….Just think what it would do to set a new generation on a stronger educational path…The mistake we’ve made is that we’re too agency-oriented and not focused on the universal responsibility of the entire community to make sure our children are nurtured with the best opportunities for success.”
This simple rational is our pathway to prosperity. Ensuring a high quality education for all children, from early childhood to high school and beyond and mitigating the factors that hinder educational achievement will lead to economic growth. Through the efforts of groups like the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Education and Memphis/Shelby Achieves, we are well on our way. An investment in today’s students is an investment in tomorrow’s economy.
The Office of Talent and Human Capital
Office of Mayor A C Wharton
Dr. Douglas G. Scarboro, Executive Director
Dr. Douglas Scarboro is Executive Director of the Office of Talent and Human Capital for the City of Memphis. He is also the city’s Chief Learning Officer and Education Liaison.
The Office of Talent and Human Capital was created by Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. in 2010, after he was elected City of Memphis Mayor. The Office of Talent and Human Capital addresses Memphis’s key human capital needs by developing collaborative action around strategic problems with Memphis's workforce. Specifically, the office provides strategic action and direction for partnerships that develop, attract and retain knowledge workers for the City of Memphis, through programs like the Mayor's Urban Fellows program.
1. Educationand the Economy: Boosting the Economy in the Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area by Improving High School Graduation Rates http://www.all4ed.org/files/MemphisTN_leb.pdf