Report shows that dropouts in Chicago are much less likely to be employed than their graduate peers | | United Way |

A new report looking at high school dropouts and their employment in the Chicago area paints a pretty bleak picture.


The report, “High School Dropouts in Chicago and Illinois and Their Persistent Labor Market Problems,” looked at numbers from the American Community Surveys of 2009, 2010 and 2011. Those surveys showed that nearly 38,000, or 15 percent, of 19- to 24-year-olds in Chicago didn’t have a high school diploma. GED holders are counted as high school dropouts in that report, but the authors warn that the numbers are likely low as respondents to the surveys sometimes exaggerate their educational credentials.


Those surveys, though, showed that males were nearly twice as likely to be dropouts as their female peers (18 percent versus 10 percent) and breakdowns by ethnicity showed that only 4 percent of white, non-Hispanic youth were dropouts while 18 percent of blacks were and 23 percent of Hispanics did not have diplomas.


“In recent decades, educational attainment in the U.S. has become a more important determinant of personal success and well-being in the labor market, social and family life, civic participation, personal physical and mental health, and overall life satisfaction,” the authors wrote. “Those adults who fail to graduate from high school with a diploma face enormous obstacles in achieving adequate employment, earnings, and incomes over their entire adult life.”


In 2009-2010, 47 percent of Chicago high school dropouts didn’t work at all.

Over the past 12 years, the employment numbers for dropouts age 16 to 19 has seen a devastating decline — In 1999-2000, 38.9 percent of youths were employed, but in 2011-2012, that number fell to 18.2 percent.


Even for those dropouts who did work, their incomes were significantly lower than others their age.


“During 2010-2011, the mean annual earnings of dropouts ages 18-64 in Illinois were only $13,700 versus $18,400 for those with GED, $22,200 for those with a regular high school diploma, and $33,600 for those with an Associate’s degree,” found the report, which was commissioned by the Alternative Schools Network and prepared by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.   

“The costs of dropping out of high school have increased over time for both the dropouts themselves and for society at large in the form of reduced federal, state, and local taxes and increased expenditures on dropouts in the form of cash and in-kind transfers,” the authors wrote. The consequences of dropping out that they highlight included:

• Lower employment rate, higher unemployment rate, fewer weeks worked per year, fewer hours of work per week

• Lower annual earnings, resulting lower lifetime earnings

• Higher poverty rate

• Lower home ownership rate

• Limited property income

• Lower marriage rate

• Higher dependency in government in-kind/cash transfers

• Lower tax contributions to local, state, and federal governments

• High food insecurity problems

• Higher incarceration rate