Alarming Dropout Rates

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - EducationYouth who drop out of school and never re-enroll end up imposing steep annual and lifetime costs, individually and at a societal level, at a time when the federal, state and local governments are scrambling to cut costs and balance their budgets, according to a new report commissioned by the Alternative Schools Network and prepared by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, Boston, Mass. “These youth who never re-enroll in school are not only a collection of individual tragedies but also, as a group, represent a drain on society’s coffers that we can no longer afford to ignore,” said Jack Wuest, executive director at the Alternative Schools Network in Chicago. “Investing in their future is absolutely critical not only to be compassionate but to keep the public sector fiscally sound in the decades ahead.”

The report High School Dropouts in Chicago and Illinois: The Growing Labor Market, Income, Civic, Social and Fiscal Costs of Dropping Out of High School was released today at the Re-Enrolling Out of School Youth: A State, County and City Action Blueprint policy convening with more than 300 policy leaders and re-enrolled youth. Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico spoke at the policy forum at The Union League Club of Chicago with other key state, county and local elected officials. “Our findings establish vast differences in life outcomes for those who never complete high school, those who receive a diploma, and those who continue on to higher education,” added Andrew Sum, Director of the Center for Labor Market Studies. Key Findings The central findings of the report include:

  • Lifetime earnings consequences: The mean lifetime earnings of native-born high school dropouts in Illinois was $595,000; for high school graduates, $1,066,000; and for those with an associate’s degree, $1,509,000.
  • Asset-building costs — homeownership: Less than half of dropouts in Illinois — 46 percent — own a home, compared with 61 percent of high school graduates and 70 percent of those with an associate’s degree.
  • Social welfare costs: About one-third of dropouts in Illinois — 32.6 percent — receive food stamps, compared with 17.3 percent of high school graduates and 8.6 percent of associate’s degree holders.
  • Incarceration costs: Among 18 to 34-year-old males, 14.7 percent of high school dropouts were incarcerated in 2010 — including 28.8 percent of African American male dropouts — while only 3.0 percent of male high school graduates spent time behind bars.
  • Latino and African American males hit hardest: Among 19- to 24-year-olds in the City of Chicago, 15 percent did not have a high school diploma, including 19 percent of males, 30 percent of Hispanic males, and 27 percent of African American males.

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