Mom was right. A new study published in Eastern Economic Journal finds a strong correlation between high school GPA and earnings later in life. Not altogether surprising, but the strength of the connection is very strong.
The study found that one point of higher high school GPA raised income by 12 percent for men and 14 percent for women.
“Conventional wisdom is that academic performance in high school is important for college admission,” said study lead author Michael French in a statement, “but this is the first study to clearly demonstrate the link between high school GPA and labor market earnings many years later.”
“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.
In an interview with Slate, French noted that we won't all get richer if high school teachers started giving better grades. Rather, grades may be simply a marker for internal drive.
“He cautioned that while his paper's findings show a strong correlation between grades and pay, it doesn't prove a causal link,” Slate observed. “But it’s not difficult to think of ways pay and grades might relate. A student’s high school GPA is a good predictor of whether he will finish college, and generally, more education leads to more pay. The ability to slog through high school biology and Spanish class also may well just be a good indicator of intrinsic motivation.”
The impact of GPA played out in a variety of measures, the Washington Post noted in a review of the study.
“The findings also show that people with better grades were more likely to keep studying after high school,” the Post noted. “For instance, a one-point increase in GPA doubles the chance for both genders that a person will complete college, increasing that probability from 21 percent to 42 percent. Better grades were also linked to a greater probability of going to graduate school and earning another advanced degree.”