Suspending high schoolers results in a major loss for the economy, a new report from UCLA says.
UCLA's Civil Rights Project has become the first to try and quantify the cost of what it calls "exclusionary discipline," or punishments like suspensions that take students out of school. The study looked into the results of such discipline, like dropping out of high school, and then calculated the cost it has on the economy at large.
According to the report, it's pretty significant.
Authors of the study said that 16 percent of 10th graders were suspended in a single year. Since suspensions increase the rate of dropouts, those alone resulted in more than 67,000 kids leaving high school.
When a student drops out, they are less likely to earn high wages, so they pay less in taxes. When they don't have a salaried job, they're less likely to have health insurance, which means costs skyrocket in the event they need care. Those same students will rely more heavily on public assistance and are more likely to get in trouble with the law, which costs taxpayers in court fees and prison costs.
All told, those 67,000 dropouts from a single grade's suspensions result in a $35 billion cost to the country, approximately.
"That's just for a single year," Russell Rumberger, a co-author of the study from the University of California, told NPR. He emphasized the estimate is actually conservative.
There is good news, though: while suspensions rose significantly starting in the 1970s and into the 21st century, they have since begun to sink again. In California, New York City, Massachusetts and some other states, suspension rates have dropped markedly recently. Those districts have consequently seen an uptick in graduation.
One reason is that the racial disparity in discipline became a national talking point, but another is that schools are just beginning to understand that suspensions have repercussions of their own.
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