High school dropouts on average receive $1,500 a year more from government than they pay in taxes because they are more likely to get benefits or to be in prison, according to a U.S. study released on Wednesday.
The findings, based on U.S. Census Bureau data from 2009-2010, illustrate the cost advantage of programs that persuade dropouts to re-enroll in school instead of becoming a financial drain on society, the study’s sponsors said.
The cost of getting a high school dropout back to school and through to graduation is $13,000 a year, or roughly $33,000 total, said Jack Wuest of the Alternative Schools Network, one of the study’s sponsors.
And yet over a dropout’s entire working life, he or she receives $71,000 more on average in cash and in-kind benefits than paid in taxes. The societal costs may include imprisonment, government-paid medical insurance and food stamps.
In contrast, high school graduates pay $236,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits, and college degree holders pay $885,000 more in taxes than they receive.
Lifetime earnings of dropouts totaled $595,000, the study found, compared to $1,066,000 earned by high school graduates and $1,509,000 by those with a two-year junior college degree.
The highest dropout rates were among black and Hispanic men, at up to 30 percent.