Monday, May 16, 2011

Dropouts and Crime, the Correlation is Clear

As many states prune their education budgets it is worth considering the impact of fewer dollars being spent on education. A decline in academic achievement means an increase in students who fail to finish high school.

High school dropouts face many hardships ranging from lower incomes to higher rates of incarceration. According to the Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 1972–2008, compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics,
the median income for people ages 18 through 67 who had not completed high school was roughly $23,000 in 2008. By comparison, the median income for people ages 18 through 67 who completed their education with at least a high school diploma, including a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, was approximately $42,000. Over a lifetime, this translates into a loss of approximately $630,000 in income.

An income on average 40 percent lower than an educated counterpart may not necessarily seem like a reason to turn to a life of crime, but estimates from the most recent data available indicate that approximately 34 percent of federal and state inmates and 50 percent death row inmates lack a high school diploma. Estimates for those 25 and older indicate that during the same years 15 percent of the general population were dropouts.

Educational failure and crime rates correspond. Policymakers would do well not to ignore public safety when considering the impact of cuts in education funding.

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