Central Standard

Friday, February 27, 2015 - 10°F

The Dropout Crisis

In the United States, over one million students drop out of high school each year. In the Chicago area, there are nearly 42,000 young people without a regular high school diploma. Studies have shown that as these out-of-school youths become adults they face a higher rate of unemployment, a greater likelihood of poverty, increased probability of drug use, and more chances of having trouble with the law. Because of limited education and lack of employable skills, most will face numerous obstacles to obtaining employment that provides a sufficient wage their entire life. And dropping out is not just a personal tragedy. It has led to greater social, economic, and health concerns. By far, the greatest cost to our community is the untapped human potential.

Most of the following is based on a study conducted by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University called High School Dropouts in Chicago and Illinois: The Growing Labor Market, Income, Civic, Social and Fiscal Costs of Dropping Out of High School. (PDF)

High school graduation rates in Chicago

In the city of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools has reported a graduation rate of 65.4% for the 2013-2014 school year. This rate is up nearly 4% from the previous school year and education professionals are optimistic that high school graduation rates will continue to increase due to many contributing factors. While the rate increase is encouraging, approximately one out of every four students in Chicago may still not attain a high school diploma. Statistically in Chicago,

  • males are more likely to dropout than female students,
  • over 50% of Native American youth will not graduate,
  • and among other groups, Hispanic teens are the most likely to dropout, followed by African Americans.

Most of these out-of-school youth could re-enroll and, with appropriate planning and support, graduate.

What contributes to the dropout rate?

Studies have shown that students who are most at-risk...

  • live near or below the poverty level
  • live in large cities
  • are chronically absent from school
  • have teachers who are less qualified and are paid lower salaries
  • are not involved in sports or extra-curricular activities
  • lack a good adult support system
  • are not engaged or motivated in school

Reasons youth give for dropping out

Lack of motivation and relevance of school work to real life are the most reported reasons for dropping out. Others include:

  • pregnancy and teen parenthood
  • lack of adult support with class work or homework
  • drug use, gangs and criminal activity
  • the need to assist their family financially or with childcare
  • the feeling that no one cares anyway

The cost of dropping out for the dropout

Today, more than ever, youth who do not complete their high school education put their future at risk. They face a life-long struggle to make a sufficient wage, and enormous obstacles to achieving success in life.

  • Dropouts are more likely to be unemployed. 48% of high school dropouts were unemployed in 2010.
  • Of those who do find work, the average annual salary is approximately $13,400, less than half the yearly wage of a person with an Associate Degree.
  • Dropouts are more likely to live near or below the poverty level. 58% are likely to rely on public assistance.
  • Dropouts experience increased drug use and alcoholism.
  • Dropouts are more likely to have trouble with the law. In Illinois, 51% of those in jail are high school dropouts.
  • In a significantly changed economy, fewer dropouts will ever afford to own their own home.
  • High school dropouts are less likely to marry and more likely to get a divorce.
  • 43% of families headed by a high school dropout will experience hunger.

The cost of the dropout crisis to our community

Along with a great loss of human potential there are severe social, economic, and health ramifications for our community.

  • Our labor market finds a less productive and competitive workforce.
  • Poor employment rates and lesser income result in a greater reliance on public assistance. In 2010, 58% of high school dropouts relied on food stamps.
  • Over a dropoutís life time, the local governments will loose millions in tax revenue. Over a lifetime, a dropout costs a net average of over $70,000, while high school graduates makes a net contribution of around $236,000.
  • With so many young people unemployed or on the streets, violence and crime increase resulting in a loss of public safety.
  • More crime means more incarcerations. The cost of housing an inmate is approximately $22,000 annually.
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