For the record: The costs of high school dropouts

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One in seven Chicagoans age 19 to 24 are dropouts and the costs to the city and state are staggering, according “High School Dropouts in Chicago and Illinois: The Growing Labor Market, Income, Civic, Social and Fiscal Costs of Dropping Out of High School,” a report Northeastern University researchers prepared for the Chicago Urban League and released today.

The report will be officially released at a Chicago Urban League forum, which Catalyst Chicago will be live-Tweeting

 The forum will feature CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, as well as city, county and state elected officials. They will talk about program options for out-of-school youth, which have been curtailed during the recession and state budget crisis. The Alternative Schools Network, an advocacy group, sponsors forums and research to bring attention to the issue of out-of-school youth. 

 Black and Latino young men are hit especially hard. One in four young African-American men and nearly one in three Latino men are dropouts. Many of the dropouts are incarcerated, according to the report.

They face a grim future. Just half of high school dropouts age 18 to 64 in Chicago were employed during 2010. Of the rest, most could not find work for even a week out of the past year. Those who did work had an average income of just $13,700 (only 40 percent of what those with associate’s degrees earned.)

Over a lifetime, that adds up: High school dropouts will earn just $595,000, compared with $1.1 million for high school graduates and $1.5 million for people with associate’s degrees. 

The disparities also take a toll on children, the report notes. In the 2009-10 fiscal year, one in three families headed by high school dropouts had to rely on food stamps.

 “Children living in families headed by high school dropouts face a substantially above average probability of encountering cognitive, health, housing adequacy, and nutrition problems that will limit their future economic and educational development,” the report states. “Their chances of securing a bachelor’s degree by their mid-20s are close to zero.”

 Compared with a high school graduate, each high school dropout costs society more than $300,000, according to the report. Compared with a 4-year college graduate, the cost is $956,000. This does not even factor in the cost of the five-times-higher incarceration rate faced by high school dropouts. 

 Researcher Andrew Sum tabulated the statewide costs of Illinois dropouts in 2005. The tab? A staggering $10 billion. The Chicago Reporter >tackled the topic in its November 2006 issue, “$10 Billion Hole.”  

Catalyst Chicago’s 2008 story on High School Transformation at Marshall High School noted that dropouts from the school’s Class of 2011 would cost society an estimated $124 million over their lifetime. That program was ultimately scrapped, and a tumultuous series of changes at the school ultimately resulted in a fall 2010 turnaround