Earlier Interventions Can Reduce Long-Term Effects for Dropouts

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

Researchers at Duke University have uncovered new evidence that examines the effects of dropping out of high school on joblessness, hardship, and incarceration.

A data set was analyzed for the study, published in the June issue of the Journal of Adolsecent Health, that followed close to 600 students from kindergarten through age 27, finding that certain factors during adolescence can increase the effects of dropping out of high school, such as facing rejection from other students or becoming pregnant, writes Jess Clark for WUNC.

“Individuals who had dropped out of high school were nearly four times more likely to be receiving government assistance, or twice as likely to have been fired, or more than three times more likely to have been arrested before the age of 18,” said study author and Duke policy professor Jennifer Lansford.

Lansford went on to say that access to treatment for drug or mental health issues may result in a decrease in the negative outcomes for dropouts.  In addition, she said comprehensive sex education and access to birth control in high school while simultaneously working to reduce bullying in elementary schools may not only improve outcomes for those who drop out of high school, but also keep them from dropping out in the first place.

Originally looking to determine what factors can help high school dropouts become successful later on in their lives, Lansford said her focus quickly changed after finding that not many people fell into that category.  Instead, she looked to the negative effects, saying that students who do not graduate from high school or earn a GED are at greater risk for experiencing these negative life outcomes.

“Things like being incarcerated, using illicit drugs, relying on government assistance, having poor health – these are all negative life outcomes that are much more likely to happen for dropouts.”

However, her research suggested that preventative measures can be taken to help these individuals.  For example, those who received treatment for behavioral, emotional or drug problems by the age of 24 were found to have a greatly improved life outcomes through the age of 27.

She went on to suggest that rather than treating the problems after they arise, preventative measures are taken to prevent them from appearing at all, as well as to prevent individuals from dropping out of school, reports Erin Wygant for Chapelboro.

However, if a student does drop out, Lansford said she was encouraged by the effects of counseling she witnessed during her research, adding that it is never too late to make a change.

At the same time, a new report on jobs in the United States shows a 4 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate for those who do not hold a high school diploma.  The main reason for this was sited as an increase in the number of people who had stopped looking for new jobs and were no longer counted as unemployed.  The percentage of people in that group who were either working or looking for work had fallen from 46.1% to 44.5% in April.

Meanwhile, employment for high school and college graduates remains strong, with the unemployment rate for the group at 2.4% and their participation rate at 74.3%, both unchanged since April.