2015 the Urban Institute brief “Dropping Out and Clocking In” profiled a little-researched group of high school dropouts: teens who leave school early and work. Our analysis showed that these young people contribute substantially to their households, on average about 24 percent of household income.
Moreover, many of their families are low income and receive relatively little support from the federal safety net. Youth earnings undoubtedly make a difference to both these youth and their families in the short term. But questions remain about how these young people fare over the long term. Are they able to go back to school? Do they have successful careers? Or do early choices between work and school jeopardize their future economic well-being?