Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Understanding the Effects of High School Dropout from Reason for Dropout

Friday, November 13, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Julie Percival, University of Texas, Dallas
High school dropout is a constant concern for education researchers, school administrators, and policymakers, but the study of it presents researchers with considerable challenges.  This is partly due to the complex reasons that drive an individual’s choice to leave school. According to the NELS survey, ~80% of dropouts list more than one reason for leaving school.  Past research, while rigorous and well-received in the research community, has not taken this into account, nor has it considered that outcomes between male and female dropouts may vary considerably.

This paper finds considerable differences in economic and social outcomes for male and female high school dropouts using factors extracted from lists of reasons for dropout from the NELS and ELS surveys.  The outcomes of interest include earned income, employed for pay, ill health prevents employment, number of children, HS/GED completion, receipt of public aid, arrested or know someone arrested (NELS only). Some results were not surprising, like when male dropouts with high factor scores for behavioral problems (expulsion, multiple suspensions) showed higher rates of being incarcerated or knowing someone who’d been incarcerated. Female dropouts with high levels of social alienation (from students and teachers) were more likely to manifest health problems that interfered with their ability to work. Others were unexpected: when controlling for the effect of gender, dropouts with high factor scores for work-related reasons were not likely to be making more money than dropouts who left for other reasons.