Study Finds Dropouts More Likely to be Incarcerated or Unemployed

A new report chronicling the whereabouts of past high school dropouts shows that all dropouts, and particularly African-Americans, are far more likely to wind up incarcerated or unemployed than those with a high school diploma. 

Compiled by researchers at Northeastern University, the report shows that high school dropouts are roughly six times more likely to become incarcerated than high school graduates. But the more startling statistic was that between 2006 and 2007 around 23 percent of 16- to 24-year-old African American male high school dropouts were incarcerated or otherwise institutionalized at some point, compared with 6.3 percent of all dropouts. 

The research, based on U.S. Census Bureau data and other surveys taken between 2006 and 2008, was commissioned by a long list of groups, among them the National Urban League, the National Education Association and the Alternative Schools Network. The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern issued the report as a follow-up to one earlier this year that showed there are more than 6 million youth living in America who are high school dropouts.            

Other key findings in the new report show that 54 percent of all high school dropouts were unemployed at some point in 2008, with the African-American dropout jobless rate standing at 69 percent, and that the average cost to taxpayers over the lifetime of each dropout is $292,000. 

Jack Wuest, executive director of the Alternative Schools Network, one of the programs that commissioned the study, said of the report, “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.”

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