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Dropping Out Costly to Teenagers and Taxpayers

Posted on 11/17/2009

Researchers at Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies have published a study: "The Consequences of Dropping out of High School: Joblessness and Jailing for High School Dropouts and the High Cost for Taxpayers". The study puts the average cost to taxpayers over the working life of each high school dropout at $292,000.

The study reports on research conducted on employment, earnings, incarceration, teen and young adult parenting experiences and family incomes of the nation's young adult dropout populations and their better educated peers. The data reported on was gathered between 2006 and 2008.

The sobering statistics sited in the study include:

  • During 2006-2007, nearly 1 out of 10 young male dropouts were incarcerated, while the rate for high school graduates was 1 out of 33
  • From 2006-2007, young female dropouts were 6 times as likely to have given birth as college students or graduates, and 60% of those who had given birth were unmarried at the time of the research
  • In 2008, the average joblessness rate for high school dropouts was nearly 54% -┬ámore than 22% higher than for high school graduates

Young African-American males were hardest hit by these statistics, as the study points to a 22% daily jailing rate for young black males who drop out of high school. The study also highlights the many factors that contribute to these problems, including employment, earning and social difficulties facing young dropouts, and especially as faced by young African American men. The associated incarceration rates, low employment and negative income growth often persist over the lifetime of adults who fail to complete high school.

In conclusion, the study calls for the need to keep students in high school, help them graduate with diplomas and find ways to bring dropouts back to school. Without a serious and united effort, the outlook for these youths is likely to be bleak, as the study concludes, "even after the end of the current economic recession, which for many of these youths has turned into a labor market depression."

Source: Thursday Notes for Oct. 29, 2009 from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Dept. of Education.