We Need 10 Million Unskilled Jobs—Now!
by James Glaser
March 23, 2011
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I was driving home this afternoon and saw a man setting down cones along the edge of the pavement where they were starting some road work. I thought, there is a job just about anyone, with any amount of education could do.

The Pew Partnership for Civic Change, has come out with a report that explains that "A million or so American students drop out every year."

On PBS last night a man was explaining how in the Los Angles School District, with 600,00 students, they only graduate 50% of their students... Nation wide about 33% of the students never finish high school.

Well everyone from the President on down is saying we have to do something about our education system, but even if they found just the right thing to do today, it would take years to implement it nation-wide. That is, it would if we had that "right thing" right now, but we don't.

So, until we do get things turned around, we had better start thinking how we are going to employ these millions of uneducated adults who live with us. Every child that drops out is not only hurting themselves, but also their community and the whole nation. The following list gives us some of these costs.

The Cost of Dropping Out

For individuals

  • Seventy-four percent of dropouts say that they would stay in school if they had a chance to do it all over again.
  • The average high school dropout makes 27 percent less income per year than the average high school graduate. Over a lifetime, this adds up to over a quarter-million dollars in reduced personal capital.
  • High school dropouts live a decade less than graduates and are disproportionately affected by heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

For communities
  • The children of dropouts are more likely to drop out and to live in poverty.
  • A one percent reduction in dropout rates would reduce the number of crimes by 100,000 annually. Increasing graduation rates by 10 percent would correlate with a 20 percent reduction in murder and assault rates.
  • The lower wages of dropouts mean $36 billion dollars in state and local funding is lost each year.

For the nation
  • Nearly 80 percent of dropouts depend on the government for health care assistance.
  • Lower annual earnings of dropouts cost the federal government an estimated $158 billion or more in lost revenue each year.
  • Each youth who drops out and enters a life of drugs and crime costs the nation between $1.7-2.3 million dollars in crime control and health expenditures.

Sources: Bridgeland, et al. 2006. "The Silent Epidemic." Civic Enterprises, Washington, D.C.; Moretti, 2005. "Does Education Reduce Participation in Criminal Activities?" and Muenning, 2005; "Health Returns to Education Interventions." Papers presented at Symposium on the Social Costs of Inadequate Education, Columbia University, New York, NY. Day and Newburger, 2002. "The Pig Payoff: Educational Attainment and Estimates of Work-Life Earnings". Current Population Reports P23-210, US. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.

We know we have this problem, and I think it is just great that so many people are working on solving our school drop-out problem. However, we had better do something right now to start getting more basic work jobs where an education in not required. Like it or not, we have millions and millions of uneducated men and women in our midst, and if they don't have a job, the rest of us are taking care of them, either at home or in some institutional setting, like a prison.

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