The Costs of Being a Dropout

Here are some disturbing numbers:

On any given day, about one in every 10 young male high school dropouts is in jail or juvenile detention, compared with one in 35 young male high school graduates, according to a new study of the effects of dropping out of school in an America where demand for low-skill workers is plunging.

The picture is even bleaker for African-Americans, with nearly one in four young black male dropouts incarcerated or otherwise institutionalized on an average day, the study said. That compares with about one in 14 young, male, white, Asian or Hispanic dropouts.

It’s important, as always, not to mix up causation and correlation here. But I still think that, at least part of the time, an individual’s decision to drop out of school might have to do with a perceived lack of opportunities afterward. For privileged kids, you have to graduate high school because it’s a prerequisite for the Next Step, which is usually college. if there’s no meaningful Next Step in sight, and a myriad of factors are pulling you away from school, why bother?

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.