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Friday, 29 August 2008

Drop-outs: A Public Safety Issue

Something further to my post on public housing being treated as a public health issue rather than just bricks and mortar.....

In that post I reference the Public Health Agency of Canada's Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2008 wherein they mention Pathways to Education and it's favourable results with regards to education rates. They show that school drop-out rates decreased from 56% to 10% and that the number of students graduating high school rose from 20% to 80%.

That may seem good that more kids are graduating in Regent Park but so what ? Well, there is evidence tying high school graduation to a decrease in crime rate.

Stand off

Two economics professors at University of California at Berkeley, Lance Lochner and Enrico Moretti, did a study in 2004 entitled“The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports” published in the National Bureau of Economic Research. They examined the impact of high school graduation rates on incarceration using a number of sets of data including census, FBI and self reporting. Their conclusion: “Education significantly reduces criminal activity: a 10% increase in graduation rates corresponding with a 20% reduction in murder and assault rates.

This being an economic study, they also tied in a dollar figure: “…a 1% increase in the high school completion rate of all men ages 20 – 60 would save the United States as much as $1.4 billion per year in reduced costs from crime incurred by victims and society at large”.

Since then, some states have used that data and economic formula to look at their own treatment of at-risk youth.

The group “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California”, described on their website as “…a bipartisan, nonprofit, anti-crime organization led by more than 350 sheriffs, police chiefs, district attorneys and violence survivors”, applied it to California in general and calculated that a 10% increase in high school graduation rates would lower the number of homicides by about 500 per year and reduce the aggravated assault numbers by 20,000. (They also broke it down for some individual counties).

Their overall conclusion: “California's dropout crisis is a public safety issue"

Texas - on the road

A couple of days ago Fight Crime: Invest in Kids’ Pennsylvania branch did their own number crunching and found state-wide that a 10% increase in high school grads could reduce the number of homicides by 150. For the city of Pittsburgh alone, for instance, the formula shows 13 fewer murders and 5,900 fewer assaults.

John M King School

Interesting stuff. It would be great to see if Pathways to Education can crunch their numbers after a couple of more years and see if that quadrupling of graduation rates has a real impact on the streets of Regent Park.

Should we ever see a program similar to Pathways come to Manitoba I'd love to see what the target numbers would be for our neck of the woods.

1 comment:

KM said...

An interesting read. Gradually the word is starting to get around that the safest countries are the ones where there's a consensus that a healthy and well-educated population is the top priority.