By Sam Dillon | New York Times
October 9, 2009 -- On any given day, about one in every 10 young male high school dropouts is in jail or juvenile detention, compared with one in 35 young male high school graduates, according to a new study of the effects of dropping out of school in an America where demand for low-skill workers is plunging.
The picture is even bleaker for African-Americans, with nearly one in four young black male dropouts incarcerated or otherwise institutionalized on an average day, the study said. That compares with about one in 14 young, male, white, Asian or Hispanic dropouts.
Researchers at Northeastern University used census and other government data to carry out the study, which tracks the employment, workplace, parenting and criminal justice experiences of young high school dropouts.
“We’re trying to show what it means to be a dropout in the 21st century United States,” said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern, who headed a team of researchers that prepared the report. “It’s one of the country’s costliest problems. The unemployment, the incarceration rates — it’s scary.”
A coalition of civil rights and public education advocacy groups and a network of alternative schools in Chicago commissioned the report as part of a push for new educational opportunities for the nation’s 6.2 million high school dropouts.
“The dropout rate is driving the nation’s increasing prison population, and it’s a drag on America’s economic competitiveness,” said Marc H. Morial, the former New Orleans mayor who is president of the National Urban League, one of the groups in the coalition that commissioned the report. “This report makes it clear that every American pays a cost when a young person leaves school without a diploma.”
The report puts the collective cost to the nation over the working life of each high school dropout at $292,000. Mr. Sum said that figure took into account lost tax revenues, since dropouts earn less and therefore pay less in taxes than high school graduates. It also includes the costs of providing food stamps and other aid to dropouts and of incarcerating those who turn to crime.
Daniel J. Losen, a senior associate at the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the study was consistent with other economic studies of the dropout crisis, though he said the methodology of its cost-benefit analysis “lacked transparency.”
“The report’s strength is that it reveals in clear terms that there’s a real crisis with the high numbers of young, especially minority males, who drop out of school and wind up incarcerated,” Mr. Losen said.
Previous studies have come up with estimates of the same order of magnitude on the social cost of low graduation rates. A 2007 study by Teachers College, Princeton and City University of New York researchers, for instance, estimated that society could save $209,000 in prison and other costs for every potential dropout who could be helped to complete high school.
The new report, in its analysis of 2008 unemployment rates, found that 54 percent of dropouts ages 16 to 24 were jobless, compared with 32 percent for high school graduates of the same age, and 13 percent for those with a college degree.
Again, the statistics were worse for young African-American dropouts, whose unemployment rate last year was 69 percent, compared with 54 percent for whites and 47 percent for Hispanics. The unemployment rate among young Hispanics was lower, the report said, because included in that category were many illegal immigrants, who compete successfully for jobs with native-born youths.
The unemployment rates cited for all groups have climbed several points in 2009 because of the recession, Mr. Sum said.
Young female dropouts were nine times more likely to have become single mothers than young women who went on to earn college degrees, the report said, citing census data for 2006 and 2007.
The number of unmarried young women having children has increased sharply in some communities in part, Mr. Sum said, because large numbers of young men have dropped out of school and are jobless year round. As a result, young women do not view them as having the wherewithal to support a family.
“None of these guys can afford to own a home, they just don’t have any money,” he said. “And as a result, any time they father a child it’s out of wedlock. It wasn’t like this 30 years ago.”
He cited his hometown, Gary, Ind., as an example. “Back in the 1970s, my friends in Gary would quit school in senior year and go to work at U.S. Steel and make a good living, and young guys in Michigan would go to work in an auto plant,” he said. “You just can’t do that anymore. Today, you have a lot of dropouts who are jobless year round.”
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS NETWORK:
Black Male Dropouts Lead Nation in Incarceration
New report released by national coalition demonstrates need for national dropout re-enrollment strategy
CHICAGO, Oct. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- On any given day, nearly 23 percent of all young Black men ages 16 to 24 who have dropped out of high school are in jail, prison, or a juvenile justice institution in America, according to a disturbing new national report released today on the dire economic and social consequences of not graduating from high school.
Dropouts become incarcerated at a shocking rate: 23 of every 100 young Black male dropouts were in jail on any given day in 2006-07 compared to only 6 to 7 of every 100 Asian, Hispanic or White dropouts. While young Black men are disproportionately affected, the report found that this crisis cuts across racial and ethnic lines. Male dropouts of all races were 47 times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers of a similar age who had graduated from a four-year college or university.
"For too long, and in too many ways, young people across the country have been let down by the education system and by the adults responsible for their care and development. Now is the time to increase the investments we make in young people, enhance the content, opportunities and supports we provide, and empower them to make better choices about both their individual future and the future of our nation. This report is another important step towards those ends," said Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League.
Released today by a coalition of leading national and regional education, advocacy, and social service groups, the report, Consequences of Dropping Out of High School: Joblessness and Jailing for High School Dropouts and the High Cost for Taxpayers - 22% Daily Jailing Rate for Young Black Men Who Drop Out of High School is available online at http://www.clms.neu.edu.
Professor Andrew Sum, Center for Labor Market Studies (CLMS), Northeastern University in Boston was commissioned by the Alternative Schools Network (ASN) in Chicago, to provide a detailed portrait of the employment, earnings and family income, incarceration and parenting experiences of dropouts, ages 16 to 24, compared to their better-educated peers. The report is based on an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau data from national Current Population Surveys and American Community Surveys in 2006-08.
"This timely and insightful report offers a critical account of the impact of dropouts on America's present and future. As America begins to consider the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB) and shapes the unprecedented investment in education by the Obama administration, we must remember to take careful and thoughtful account of what is at stake," said Jack Wuest, Executive Director, the ASN. "These statistics overwhelmingly make the case for a national education strategy that focuses on re-enrolling these young adults back into school and training programs that can lead to well-paying careers."
This new report builds upon the groundbreaking findings of Left Behind in America: The Nation's Dropout Crisis, released earlier this year, which disclosed that nearly 6.2 million largely black and Hispanic youth have dropped out of high school and are living in America. This report, also released by the ASN in conjunction with other national education and civil rights organizations, documented the magnitude of America's dropout crisis.
Consequences of Dropping Out of High School: Joblessness and Jailing outlines the extremely difficult circumstances that these young people ages 16 to 24 face after dropping out of high school, and demonstrates the high price paid by both these young adults, American taxpayers and our society as a whole. In addition to their sharply higher rates of incarceration, the report showed that these young adults face very bleak economic prospects, which will make it difficult for them to change course and finance future schooling and training.
"This new report from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University presents a vivid portrait of the growing economic peril the nation faces if it fails to reverse the rising tide of high school dropouts. The Chicago Urban League strongly endorses this report, and its call to action. High school dropouts face daunting obstacles that will bar them from entry into the labor market. The problem is most severe among African American males, who earn less and have an incarceration rate three times that of Asians and nearly four times that of Hispanics. The study also makes clear that young people who return to school can reverse these trends. The study clearly illustrates the case for quick federal action, and the need for increased capacity on the part of state agencies, non-profits and social service outlets to stave off this crisis," said Herman Brewer, Acting President and CEO, The Chicago Urban League.
DROPOUTS EXPERIENCE HIGH LEVELS OF JOBLESSNESS AND LOW WEEKLY EARNINGS
- More than half - 54 percent - of the nation's dropouts ages 16 to 24 were jobless on an average month during 2008.
- Black dropouts experienced the highest jobless rate at 69 percent followed by Asians at 57 percent and Whites at 54 percent. Hispanic dropouts had the lowest jobless rates at 47 percent, reflecting the higher employment rate of young Hispanic immigrants. In sharp contrast, only about 13 percent of young adults with a college degree were jobless on average in the same time period.
- 40 percent of all young dropouts in the country were jobless for the entire year.
- Without a high school diploma, you cannot earn enough money to make ends meet and certainly not enough to reach the American dream of raising a family and buying a home. The mean annual earnings of the nation's young people with a bachelor's or advanced degree were $24,797 in 2007, three times higher than the mean earnings for dropouts of $8,358. These figures include workers with zero earnings.
- The limited earnings potential of dropouts mean many never leave their parents' or relatives' homes to form independent households. Nearly 37 of every 100 dropouts live in poor or near-poor families.
- Over $292,000 is the cost incurred by taxpayers for each dropout over their lifetime in terms of lost earnings and therefore lower taxes paid and higher spending for social costs including incarceration, healthcare, and welfare.
DROPOUTS MORE LIKELY TO BE SINGLE MOTHERS
- Nearly 38 percent of young female dropouts ages 16 to 24 were mothers, the highest percentage compared to their peers still enrolled in high school or college or with high school or college degrees. Young high school dropouts were nearly 9 times as likely to have become single mothers as their counterparts with undergraduate college degrees.
Wuest and other national leaders point out that such programs can be cost effective because the personal and public fiscal benefit more than outweighs the estimated cost of re-enrolling a student who has dropped out. Due to their low lifetime earnings, dropouts will contribute less in taxes than they will receive in cash benefits, in-kind transfers and correctional costs. By contrast, adults with high school diplomas and additional education contribute major fiscal benefits to the country over their lifetime.
Such programs also would help improve high school graduation rates, especially in the cities, which is a major goal outlined by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
WHAT'S NEEDED: A FEDERAL & STATE RE-ENROLLMENT PROGRAM
Create a national re-enrollment strategy that becomes a fundamental element of America's national education agenda in the U.S. Department of Education Race to the Top program and reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind program.
To address this crisis, the proposed Hope & Opportunity Pathways through Education (HOPE USA) initiative seeks to re-enroll 480,000 dropouts every year.
As jointly proposed by the National Urban League, National Council of La Raza, Youth Build, the Corps Network, Los Angeles Conservation Corps, Soledad Enrichment Action, Los Angeles, Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, Illinois State Council on Re-Enrolling Students Who Dropped Out of School, the Chicago Urban League and the Alternative Schools Network, HOPE USA would become a $2 billion federal matching incentive grant program to spur state and local school districts to establish programs to re-enroll dropouts in comprehensive programs that would assist them in earning a high school diploma. The initiatives would be small schools (80-150 students) and led by experienced principals and teachers. They would focus on real-world learning and include summer and after-school components and year-round employment programs.
- Emphasize and provide significant funding for re-enrollment of students who have dropped out of school as part of the Obama administration's Race to the Top initiative and the revised No Child Left Behind legislation.
- Expand year round and summer employment for jobless youth with a $5 billion initiative.
SUMMARY OF COALITION RELEASING REPORT
This report was released nationally in conjunction with the National Urban League, the National Education Association, Youth Build, The Corps Network, Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, City of Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board, Chicago Urban League, Illinois Council on Re-Enrolling Students Who Dropped Out of School, Los Angeles Conservation Corps, Soledad Enrichment Action, Los Angeles, and the Alternative Schools Network.