College & Workforce Readiness Report Roundup

Suspensions Can Cost Billions, Calif. Study Finds

By Francisco Vara-Orta — March 21, 2017 1 min read

A growing cadre of public policy researchers and lawmakers agree that school discipline rates remain high for black and Hispanic students, and those with disabilities, but a study from the University of California takes it a step further by connecting suspension rates to major economic impacts.

Researchers found that suspensions lead to lower graduation rates, which in turn lead to lower tax revenue and higher taxpayer costs for criminal justice and social services. The authors followed a single cohort of California 10th grade students through high school and found that those who were suspended had a 60 percent graduation rate—compared to an 83 percent graduation rate for students who were not.

The Hidden Cost of California's Harsh School Discipline

Students who were suspended in high school are much less likely to graduate, which, in turn, leads to lower tax revenue and higher taxpayer costs years later.


The result: An economic loss of $2.7 billion over the lifetime of that single cohort of dropouts who left school because they were suspended, researchers found.

The study calculates the financial consequences of suspending students in each California school district with more than 100 students, and for the state as a whole. The study was done by Russell W. Rumberger, the director of the California Dropout Research Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Daniel J. Losen, the director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In the cohort of 10th graders they analyzed—and after controlling for other predictors of dropping out—the researchers found that 4,621 students dropped out of school because they were suspended. Just one of those nongraduates generates $579,820 in economic losses over their lifetime, Rumberger and Losen found.

A version of this article appeared in the March 22, 2017 edition of Education Week as Suspensions Can Cost Billions, Calif. Study Finds


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