Dropouts who don’t end up dead often end up in prison. By age 34, dropouts are about 140 times more likely to be in cor­rec­tional insti­tu­tions than their peers with col­lege degrees, according to a 2011 study by North­eastern Uni­ver­sity in Boston. In Illi­nois, half of the people in prison in 2011 hadn’t fin­ished high school.

Those who don’t end up dead or in prison often can’t find jobs. “Drop­ping out is eco­nomic sui­cide,” says North­eastern labor econ­o­mist Andrew Sum. Chicago’s job­less rate for dropouts is quadruple that of people with col­lege degrees. Over a life­time, Illi­nois dropouts earn 25 per­cent of what col­lege grads do. A dropout costs the nation more than $300,000 in his or her working years, com­pared with a high school grad­uate, in lost tax rev­enues; dropouts pay less in taxes because they earn less.

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