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Questions for President Obama: Who Is Dropping Out Along Our Economic Landscape and Why?

Posted by Larry Doyle on February 22, 2012 6:28 AM |

This commentary provides a wealth of details and data along with some fabulous links. I firmly believe it covers the most important issues which will determine the future health and prosperity of our nation. It is a little lengthy, and for some perhaps overly sensitive—dare I say politically incorrect—but I hope you will take the time to read, review, and comment upon it. Thanks. LD 

While there are plenty of pols in Washington and elsewhere who would like to paint a picture of a land divided along class lines, let’s not get distracted by those merely making noise to score political points.

Let’s dig a  little deeper and determine who is not keeping up along our economic landscape . . . and why? 

The major topics on our political agenda revolve around jobs, income, and the disparity amongst economic classes in our nation.

Back in the Fall of 2008, I addressed the fact that America’s income gap is really an education gap. Before you think this might be a partisan piece, I also recently addressed my belief that certain tax rates should be increased while the overall tax code  should be much flatter.

But let’s now pursue the truth and promote some basic facts and pertinent data regarding employment, income, education, and family structure.

Recently, Investors Business Daily echoed my premise that the real issue with jobs and income in our nation is that an Education Gap, Not Income Gap, is America’s Number 1 Problem:

America’s problem is not an income gap, but an education gap. The latter creates the former.

Who is not able to keep up? Those who drop out of school. The Wall Street Journal provides startling details on this  reality in writing, As Job Market Mends, Dropouts Fall Behind:

Less than 40% of the 25 million Americans over age 25 who lack a high-school diploma are employed. And those who are working don’t earn much. High-school dropouts earn about $23,400 on average, compared with $33,500 for those with a high-school diploma and $54,700 for four-year college grads, the labor bureau says.

This gap is expected to widen as jobs demand higher skills and more education. In 2020, there will be nearly six million more high-school dropouts than jobs available to such U.S. workers, according to a 2011 McKinsey Global Institute study. At the same time, there will be a shortage of about 1.5 million college-educated workers by 2020.

“High-school dropouts are being left further and further behind,” said Susan Lund, head of research for the institute, part of the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm.

Where do the majority of high school dropouts reside?

The inner cities.

Are you sitting down?

America’s Promise Alliance, which is significantly supported by the Obama administration, provides riveting details in a report entitled Cities in Crisis:

Cities in Crisis 2009: Closing the Graduation Gap  prepared for America’s Promise Alliance by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, shows that despite some progress made by several cities from 1995-2005, the average graduation rate of the 50 largest cities is well below the national average of 71%, and there remains an 18 percentage point urban vs suburban gap.

Cities in Crisis 2009 finds that only about half (53%) of all young people in the nation’s 50 largest cities are graduating from high school on time. Cities in Crisis 2009 was released on April 22, 2009 as a follow-up to the original Cities in Crisis report released in April 2008.

Nationwide, nearly one in three U.S. high school students fails to graduate with a diploma. In total, approximately 1.2 million students drop out each year — averaging 7,000 every school day or one every 26 seconds. Among minority students, the problem is even more severe with nearly 50 percent of African American and Hispanic students not completing high school on time.

Cities in Crisis 2009: Closing the Graduation Gap also looked at the economic and employment landscape for those with varied educational levels, including those without a high school diploma. It revealed that those who drop out of high school are less likely to be steadily employed, and earn less income when they are employed, compared with those who graduate from high school. Approximately one-third (37 percent) of high school dropouts nationwide are steadily employed and are more than twice as likely to live in poverty.

The report revealed that high school dropouts account for 13 percent of the adult population, but earn less than six percent of all dollars earned in the U.S. In the 50 largest cities, the median income for high school dropouts is $14,000 — significantly lower than the median income of $24,000 for high school graduates and $48,000 for college graduates.

Nationally, high school dropouts were also the only group of workers who saw income levels decline over the last 30 years.

While we learn that incomes and employment are highly correlated with level of education, what else might correlate? Do you think that those born into two parent families may stand a better chance of getting a diploma and a solid job?

Recent statistics highlight that 4 of every 10 newborns in our nation enter the world into a single parent family. Within that data, 7 of every 10 newborn African Americans, half of the Hispanic newborns, and approximately 3 of every 10 Caucasians are born into single parent families. Not even 2 of every 10 Asian Americans are born into single parent families.

Why is this data so important? As the National Fatherhood Initiative points out:

Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Center for Health Statistics. Survey on Child Health. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1993.

Do you need me to connect any more of these dots?

Do you care to review the impact on these single parent children and the data in terms of poverty, health, incarceration, teen pregnancy, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and obesity? The previous link may unsettle you, but then again better to know the truth than not.

I have previously given President Obama his due for trying to make strides within education, but the next time he and his minions care to engage and promote class warfare, let’s redirect the discourse.

Let’s ask our political elite their opinions on why individuals drop out of school. In order to address this truth, perhaps we should first accept it and expose it.  

Let’s then ask them why individuals choose to bring their children into the world within single parent family units. In order to address this truth, perhaps we should accept it and expose it. 

Who and what might be responsible for the dynamics at play driving these realities?

The truth and reality of this situation may not help their campaign . . . but it is the truth and anybody with a modicum of sense on cents appreciates it.

We ALL pay the costs and bear the burden for these social issues. I have NO problem paying in to address these issues, BUT I have a huge problem in allowing the  problems to perpetuate and remain largely swept under the rug while politicians use the people for their own personal gain.

For specifics on graduation rates within our major cities, America’s Promise Alliance details:

Graduation Rates for the Main School Systems in the Nation’s 50 Largest Cities  

City Principal School District Graduation Rate(Class of 2005) Graduation Rate(Class of 1995) Change (Percentage Points)
Philadelphia Philadelphia City School District 62.1% 38.9% +23.2
Tucson Tucson Unified District 71.6% 48.9% +22.7
Kansas City Kansas City School District 53.5% 33.6% +19.7
El Paso El Paso ISA 60.6% 46.6% +13.9
Portland, Ore. Portland School District 68.6% 55.4% +13.1
New York New York City Public Schools 50.5% 37.8% +12.8
Dallas Dallas ISD 50.8% 38.2% +12.7
Columbus Columbus Public Schools 44.7% 32.1% +12.6
Mesa Mesa Unified District 76.6% 64.6% +12.0
Austin Austin ISD 58.9% 47.5% +11.5
Atlanta Atlanta City School District 43.5% 32.8% +10.8
Fort Worth Fort Worth ISD 56.5% 46.1% +10.4
Miami Dade County School District 55.9% 5.6% +10.4
Houston Houston ISD 52.9% 43.1% +9.8
Chicago City of Chicago School District 51.0% 41.8% +9.2
Oakland, Calif. Oakland Unified 50.5% 41.3% +9.2
Virginia Beach Virginia Beach City Public Schools 68.5% 59.7% +8.8
Baltimore Baltimore City Public School System 41.5% 33.8% +7.7
Denver Denver County School District 58.6% 51.7% +6.9
Detroit Detroit City School District 37.5% 30.5% +6.9
San Antonio San Antonio ISD 47.3% 40.9% +6.4
Phoenix Phoenix Union High School District 58.0% 52.4% +5.6
Indianapolis Indianapolis Public Schools 30.5% 25.2% +5.3
Oklahoma City Oklahoma City Public Schools 47.0% 41.7% +5.3
Milwaukee Milwaukee Public Schools 41.0% 35.8% +5.2
Sacramento Sacramento City Unified 62.1% 57.2% +4.9
District of Columbia District of Columbia Public Schools 57.6% 52.8% +4.8
Colorado Springs Colorado Springs School District 68.8% 64.1% +4.6
Honolulu Hawaii Department of Education 67.4% 63.7% +3.6
Nashville Nashville-Davidson Co. School District 45.2% 42.0% +3.1
Jacksonville Duval County School District 50.8% 50.2% +0.7
Louisville Jefferson County School District 63.4% 63.7% -0.3
Seattle Seattle School District 68.9% 69.6% -0.7
Memphis Memphis City School District 51.2% 52.5% -1.2
Fresno Fresno Unified 51.9% 53.4% -1.5
Boston Boston Public Schools 58.6% 60.3% -1.7
Minneapolis Minneapolis Public Schools 45.3% 47.0% -1.7
San Jose San Jose Unified 73.3% 75.0% -1.8
Tulsa Tulsa Public Schools 48.5% 50.6% -2.0
Charlotte Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools 60.5% 62.7% -2.3
San Diego San Diego Unified 63.7% 66.0% -2.4
Los Angeles Los Angeles Unified 44.4% 48.0% -3.6
Long Beach Long Beach Unified 64.0% 67.7% -3.7
Cleveland Cleveland Municipal City School District 34.4% 39.3% -4.9
San Francisco San Francisco Unified 57.1% 63.6% -6.5
Albuquerque Albuquerque Public Schools 49.0% 55.6% -6.6
Arlington, Tex. Arlington ISD 60.3% 72.0% -11.6
Omaha Omaha Public Schools 49.6% 64.4% -14.8
Wichita Wichita Public Schools 54.5% 72.1% -17.6
Las Vegas Clark County School District 44.5% 67.6% -23.1
50-City Average 52.8% 48.3% +4.4
National Average 70.6% 65.8% +4.8

NOTE: Graduation rates are calculated using the Cumulative Promotion Index method with data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Common Core of Data. Rankings are based on non-rounded statistics. SOURCE: EPE Research Center, 2008

Larry Doyle

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I have no affiliation or business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets, our economy, and our political realm so that meaningful investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

  • LD

    More grist for the mill. None other than The New York Times writes, For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage,

    Among mothers of all ages, a majority — 59 percent in 2009 — are married when they have children. But the surge of births outside marriage among younger women — nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are born to mothers under 30 — is both a symbol of the transforming family and a hint of coming generational change.

    One group still largely resists the trend: college graduates, who overwhelmingly marry before having children. That is turning family structure into a new class divide, with the economic and social rewards of marriage increasingly reserved for people with the most education.

    “Marriage has become a luxury good,” said Frank Furstenberg, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

    The shift is affecting children’s lives. Researchers have consistently found that children born outside marriage face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems.

  • LD

    Additionally, from Facts on Fatherless Kids we can learn a wealth of information, including:

    Worse to bad: Children in single-parent families tend to score lower on standardized tests and to receive lower grades in school. Children in single-parent families are nearly twice as likely to drop out of school as children from two-parent families.
    Source: J.B. Stedman (et al.), “Dropping Out,” Congressional Research Service Report No 88-417. 1988.

  • Rob Phillips

    Thanks or the post, LD.

    The numbers presented in this article are ugly, but no surprise. Statistically, I should have been doomed because my mother was single for most of my childhood, and though I did drop out of high school, I blow out the Cities in Crisis listed median income for college students, and make about 25% more than both my college educated wife and brother.

    I never took the SAT (or equivalent) tests, but have IQ tested at Mensa levels. I’ve always worked hard, self-educated and capitalized on a few breaks along the way to get where I am today, so I am proud of myself for overcoming the odds presented above.

    Still, I know most people are not as self-motivated or fortunate as I have been, so my wife and I are working hard on getting our daughter up to speed as early as possible (she started reading at 3 yrs old) and will ensure she stays the course throughout her schooling years to ensure her best foot is forward when she leaves the nest. : )

    • LD

      You are a real inspiration and clearly embrace the best ‘sense on cents’.

      In my mind you are a true American hero!! Congratulations and all the best as you continue to navigate all the twists and turns along the economic landscape.

  • fred

    guess they’re going to have to change the lyrics to the old childhood song…

    Johnnie and Janie sitting in the tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g.
    First comes graduation. Then comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes baby in the baby carriage.

    While on the topic, I’d be real curious to know the stats on co-ed v. non co-ed graduation rates as well.

    • LD


      Embedded in the WSJ article is a fabulous Interactive Graphics which provides a wealth of unemployment information broken down by gender, race, age, and education.

      • fred

        Thanks for the link. One of the things I enjoy doing is reviewing historical data to identify inflection points. When at a loss to identify the cause, I often go to the Time magazine cover website and review, by magazine cover, the time period of inflection in an attempt to determine the cause and effect.

        When I reviewed the Unemployment Interactive Graphics link you provided, the first thing that ‘jumped out’ of the data at me was that prior to 1981 every unemployment spike had women outnumbering men, from mid 1981 on unemployed men outnumbered women on every spike.

        Fact: Those that lose a job thru layoff are more apt to settle for a lower paying job upon workforce reentry while males are significantly more likely to become divorced, alcoholic, to use drugs and become incarcerated,(sounds like a recipe for single parent household formation to me).

        A review of Time covers provided some historical perspective:

        Reagan was being held to a campaign promise to hire more women in his administration, the abortion issue was front and center, Sandra Day O’Connor was the first women nominated to the US Supreme Court and while promoting the Solidarity Movement in Poland, Reagan was busy breaking the air traffic controllers union, (predominantly male), here in the US. Japan was the global economic powerhouse and lower cost automation and technology were beginning to replace human resources in the workplace.

        LD, flash foreward to today, is it about providing our children with a well rounded liberal arts education and a focus on team building thru sports or should we be focusing more on math, science and engineering and computer literacy?

        Is it better to promote workforce diversity and upward mobility for women, or, should we be focusing more on keeping males gainfully employed?

  • LD

    The Republican debate in Arizona addressed a number of the points which I wrote about in this commentary.

    The topics are specifically discussed starting around the 3:10 mark.

    • fred

      Credit to Mike Barone’s post on IBD. Romney and Santorum Represent Two Different White Americas.

      Social Scientist Murray’s book ‘Coming Apart’ focuses on white Americans only and makes reference to a significant decline in what he considers America’s founding virtues, industriousness, honesty, marriage, and religiosity.

      According to Murray, the decline is not uniform among different segments; among the top 20% in income (and education), these virtues have been maintained while in the bottom 30% in income (and education) these virtues are at historic lows; with one third of men age 30-49 unemployed,
      one fifth of women single mothers, and almost half don’t go to church.

      Liberals focus on income disparity, conservatives on personal behavior and choice, I think it has more to do with men being gainfully employed.

      I once heard the quote, “It takes a man to show a boy how to be a man”. Maybe Pete Seeger’s song could add another stanza, ‘Where have all the good men gone? Long time passing’ Where have all the good men gone? Long time ago.

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