Canada

High school dropouts cost social and justice system $1.3B a year: study

A new study has estimated that high school dropouts cost Canada's social assistance and criminal justice programs just over $1.3 billion annually.

A new study has estimated that high school dropouts cost Canada's social assistance and criminal justice programs just over $1.3 billion annually.

The study, carried out by Simon Fraser University researcher Olena Hankivsky and funded by the Canada Council on Learning, found that the Canadian government could save $963 million on social assistance if every high school dropout graduated.

Dropouts also account for $300 million in increased criminal justice spending, the report found.

The study used census data in its calculations. Hankivsky noted that some government data was not meant to be analyzed for costing studies, so she had to make some assumptions in coming up with the final calculations. 

The study also said that it was hard to measure the direct causal effects of education on use of assistance programs, so researchers used statistical models based on past research to come up with their estimates.

The estimates generally represent the most conservative calculation, Hankivsky said.

The study found that the total spending on social assistance — benefits for food, shelter, clothing and back-to-work incentives — would go down by $4,230 for each additional high school graduate.

For criminal justice spending, each additional graduate could save $220.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 84 per cent of Canadian adults are high school graduates. The Czech Republic, Norway, Slovakia, Switzerland, the United States and Russia are the only other countries that perform better on that measure.

The 2001 Census puts the number of Canadian dropouts at 2,944,235.