Suspension rates and students’ futures

A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at the relationship between schools’ suspension rates and the future lives of students in those schools. The researchers drew on data from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, where the end of race-based busing caused the district to redraw school boundaries. This enabled researchers to compare middle school students who lived in the same neighborhoods and would previously have attended the same schools but were now assigned to different schools.

The researchers found that an increase of one standard deviation in suspension rates meant students were 15% more likely to drop out of school and 11% less likely to go to college. In addition, students in schools with higher suspension rates were more likely to be arrested (17% increase) or incarcerated (21% increase) between the ages of 16 and 21. The effects were greatest for Black and Latinx students, especially males.

Source: Bacher-Hicks, A., Billings, S.B., & Deming, D.J. (2019, September). The school-to-prison pipeline: Long-run impacts of school suspensions on adult crime. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

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