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High School Drop Out Factors and Effects

by Neil Kokemuller

High school dropout rates are at the lowest levels since 1974, according to a January 2013 article from the U.S. Department of Education. During the 2009 to 2010 school year, the graduation rate was 78.2 percent. While this bodes well for the future, nearly 22 percent of high school students still suffer the effects of leaving high school without a diploma.

Family and Health Reasons

High school students sometimes struggle with a lack of family support. According to Education Week, a November 2012 Harris/Decima survey found that 23 percent of adults ages 19 to 35 indicated lack of parental support as a motive from quitting school. Over 20 percent became parents themselves, which led to their decisions to drop out. Another 12 percent noted they dropped out to help support their families. Mental health disorders, including depression, were cited by 15 percent of dropouts in the study.

Academic Reasons

A simple disinterest in or lack of success with school often contributes to instances of dropping out as well. Seventeen percent of respondents in the Harris/Decima survey indicated they missed too many days of school to succeed in classes. Closely related, 15 percent cited failing classes as their motive. In essence, students often quit because of a lack perseverance or belief in their ability to succeed. Another 15 percent said they were simply disinterested in their classes.

Economic Impact

Dropouts typically experience significant economic disadvantages relative to peers who graduate high school and continue education. Their employment options are typically more narrow and upward mobility more limited. According to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau data, high school dropouts can expect to earn roughly 66 percent of what peers with diplomas earn each year. Even more astonishing, they earn just 36 percent of what workers with a bachelor's degree make annually.

Family and Life Impact

An October 2009 report from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University indicated that young men without a diploma were 47 times more likely to wind up in jail than same-aged peers with a four-year college degree. Additionally, marriage rates and home ownership among the 18 to 64 population in the survey were significantly lower for high school graduates. Overall health is often lower among dropouts as a result of lower health benefits coverage and less awareness of health and behavioral choices.

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