High School Dropout Rates

Chicago is home to the third largest public school district in the country, and it's a system that's plagued by a high dropout rate. A new study has taken a closer look at the individual and societal costs of dropping out. Andrew Sum, professor of Economics and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, conducted the study. He shared the key findings with Chicago Tonight.

Key Findings:

  • Societal costs: High school dropouts cost society money -- and average of about $70,000 during their working years. Those with a high school diploma, however, make a lifetime contribution to the economy of about $236,000, on average. This is a difference between groups of more than $300,000.
  • Lifetime earnings: The average lifetime earnings of U.S.-born high school dropouts in Illinois was $595,000. High school graduates earned an average of $1,066,000; and for those with an associate’s degree: $1,509,000.
  • Assets: 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:  Just under one-third of high school dropouts receive food stamps, compared with 17.3 percent of high school graduates, and 8.6 percent of associate’s degree holders.
  • Incarceration rates: Among 18 to 34-year-old males, 14.7 percent of high school dropouts were incarcerated in 2010, while only 3 percent of male high school graduates spent time behind bars.
  • Racial differences: Among 19- to 24-year-olds in the City of Chicago
    • 15 percent did not have a high school diploma
    • 19 percent of males did not have a high school diploma
      • 30 percent of Hispanic males did not have a high school diploma
      • 27 percent of African American males did not have a high school diploma

Nearly 42,000 of those aged 19 to 24 in Chicago do not have a regular high school diploma.

Sum also said high school dropouts have decreased marriage rates, and are far less likely to vote, volunteer and provide civic services.

To learn more, check out the full PDF file of Andrew Sum's study on the economic cost of high school dropout