Dropping out is not just a personal tragedy. It leads to greater social, economic, and health concerns. By far, the greatest cost to our community is the untapped human potential.


The Dropout Crisis

  • In the United States, more than one million students drop out of high school every year
  • Out-of-school youth face a higher rate of unemployment, greater likelihood of poverty, increased probability of drug use, and trouble with the law as they become adults
  • The dropout crisis had led to greater community-wide social, economic and health concerns, and a huge incurred cost of untapped human potential
  • Male students are more likely to drop out than females
  • More than 50% of Native American youth will not graduate
  • Among other groups, Latino teens are the most likely to drop out, followed by African American teens

What’s happening in Chicago?

  • Chicago Public Schools reported a graduation rate of 65.4% for the 2013-2014 school year, a 4% increase from the previous year
  • One out of every four students in Chicago still may not earn a high school diploma
  • In the Chicago area alone, there are almost 42,000 young people without a regular high school diploma

Why are students dropping out?

  • Living close to or below the poverty level, especially in large cities
  • Chronic absences
  • Lack of a solid adult support system including help with homework
  • Lack of opportunities to participate in sports or extracurricular activities
  • Less qualified and low-paid teachers
  • The need to assist their family financially or burdened with domestic responsibilities
  • Pregnancy and teen parenthood
  • Drug use, gangs, and criminal activity
  • The feeling that no one cares leads to disengagement and loss of motivation 

What does the future look like for a high school dropout?

  • Unemployment – 48% of high school dropouts were unemployed in 2010
  • Low salary – The average annual salary of a high school dropout is approximately $13,400, less than half the yearly wage of a person with an Associate Degree
  • Poverty – 58% of high school dropouts are likely to rely on public assistance and will to be able to afford their own home
  • Substance Abusedropouts experience increased drug use and alcoholism
  • Incarceration – 51% of Illinois prisoners are high school dropouts
  • Hunger43% of families headed by high school dropouts will experience hunger

How does this affect our community?

  • A less productive and competitive workforce
  • Greater reliance on public assistance
  • Millions of dollars in lost tax revenue for local governments – a dropout will cost a net average of more than $70,000 while a graduate will make a net contribution of approximately $236,000
  • Increase in violence and crime and a decline in public safety
  • More crime means more incarcerations. The cost of housing an inmate is approximately $22,000 annually.

(Source: Most of this information 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)

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