The Dropout Process in Life Course Perspective: Early Risk Factors at Home and School
by Karl L. Alexander, Doris R. Entwisle & Nader Kabbani - 2001
From a life course perspective, high school dropout culminates a long-term process of disengagement from school. The present paper uses data from a representative panel of Baltimore school children to describe this unfolding process. Over 40% of the study group left school at some point without a degree, but this high overall rate of dropout masks large differences across sociodemographic lines as well as differences involving academic, parental, and personal resources. A sociodemographic profile of dropout for the study group shows how dropout rates vary across different configurations of background risk factors including family socioeconomic status (SES), family type, and family stress level. Dropout risk factors and resources in support of children's schooling then are examined at four schooling benchmarks: the 1st grade, the rest of elementary school (years 2–5), the middle school (years 6–8), and year 9 (the 1st year of high school for those promoted each year). Academic, parental, and personal resources condition dropout prospects at each time point, with resources measured early in children's schooling forecasting dropout almost as well as those from later in children's schooling. Additionally, evidence is presented that resources add on to one another in moderating dropout risk, including risk associated with family SES. These patterns are discussed in terms of a life course view of the dropout process.
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