High-school departure exams have fallen out of favor in recent years, after ~ research verified that pinning graduation to passing a high-stakes test deserve to push part students come drop out. The future have the right to be grim there is no a diploma: dropouts have greater rates of unemployment, earn much less money ~ above the job, have actually poorer physical and also mental health, and also are an ext likely to be incarcerated. Wary of together risks, 18 states have actually dropped leave exams from their diploma demands in the previous two decades. This year, graduation requirements in just 11 states incorporate an exit exam.

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Beyond high-school dropout and also graduation rates, exit exams could have other effects on students and also communities. Small is known, because that example, about the details effects of departure exams on crime. Conventional id holds that more and better-quality education and learning reduces crime. Might exit exams enhance teaching and also learning in high schools such the criminal activity drops?

I looked in ~ the arrest prices of jurisdictions and compared them throughout periods before and after graduation demands were made much more demanding in 2 ways: adding high-school departure exams and increasing the lot of scholastic coursework. I find that requiring departure exams reduce arrests by roughly 7 percent, primarily from a to decrease in home crimes. Enhancing course requirements, however, has actually no far-ranging effects. My evaluation supports previously research regarding the useful effects the exit-exam use and is additionally one of the couple of studies to display that particular education policies deserve to have crime-reducing effects.

Many states have temporarily suspended standardization testing, including departure exams, as part of continuous school closures because of the Covid-19 pandemic. As decision-makers think about reinstating tests, this findings might be of specific relevance. While exit exams have come under fire for pushing students at the margins out of high school, my evaluation indicates the they have more broadly positive impacts on areas than formerly understood.

The Rise and Fall of leave Exams

For decades, educators and policymakers have been do the efforts to make high school more rigorous, consisting of by including required coursework and introducing departure exams. The moves came after dire warnings that American public institutions were failing come prepare students for college or the workplace, since classes were the end of date and standards didn’t heat up v employers’ expectations.

In 1983, A nation at Risk, a report i was delegated by the U.S. Department of Education, warned the the education and learning system in the United says was failing to prepare students for the future. The report detailed several suggestions for improvements, consisting of all students taking 4 years of English, 3 years every of mathematics, science, and social studies, and one half-year of computer system science. In response, many states boosted their food requirements, causing a wire of reforms from 1983 come 1986. A second wave the curriculum changes developed in the mid- to late-1990s, together the prestige of “rigor” take it root in the nation’s statehouses.

During those decades, states additionally introduced new exit exams, or standardized tests the students must pass to obtain their diplomas, motivated in component by the European model (see “A Steeper, better Road to Graduation,” feature, Winter 2001). Across states, the brand-new tests differed in difficulty, the subjects covered, and number of attempts allowed. In most cases, lock covered material that college student should have mastered in between the 8th and also 10th grades. As soon as the 2001 No kid Left Behind Act forced states provide high-school students at least one exam in math and also reading, countless chose to make this a graduation requirement, and the variety of exit exams flourished rapidly, reaching an ext than fifty percent of every U.S. States (see figure 1).


In theory, the presence of an exit exam focuses instruction ~ above what the state deems important and also guarantees that each graduate leaves high school with at the very least that minimum knowledge. And also some research has displayed positive effects: exit exams boost wages, employment, and also college attendance. However, research additionally has displayed that exit exams may prevent marginal students native graduating. And also in general, high-stakes exam can create incentives for colleges to prioritize experiment materials and subjects—otherwise known as “teaching come the test.”

The test have always caused controversy, as districts confront the possibility of withholding diplomas native students that completed all other graduation requirements. That dispute grew an ext intense in this decade amid a general backlash against standardized trial and error in American schools. Countless states introduced different assessments and other reviews that permitted students who did no pass exit exams to receive their diplomas. Others moved to piece exams the their standing as a graduation requirement altogether. The variety of states that require exit exams has consistently declined in recent years.

While much has been written about the educational results of changing high-school graduation requirements, the literature is sparse as soon as it involves its impacts on crime. Over there is a body of research study detailing the connection in between the highest level of education completed and also a person’s subsequent rate of criminality—for example, a 2009 report uncovered that virtually one in 10 males under the age of 25 without a high-school diploma was incarcerated on any given day, compared to one in 33 the their an ext educated young masculine peers. In addition, adults without a high-school diploma are practically twice as most likely to it is in unemployed together adult american overall, which a large body of research study has presented is linked with greater rates the crime. A 2013 research by Olesya Baker and Kevin Lang examined the influence of leave exams on incarceration based on Census data, recognize positive yet mostly trivial effects.

I seek a much more detailed investigation using yearly arrest rates, which have the right to reveal the immediate results of an exit-exam requirement, rather than later-life incarceration rates. This are vital differences, together effects might fade with time or differ based on age and also not all arrests bring about incarcerations long sufficient to be observed in Census data. My findings invite us to ask brand-new questions around the worth of exit exams.

Data and also Method

I look at annual arrest data native the federal Bureau the Investigation’s Uniform Crime reporting Program, i m sorry is the primary resource for crime statistics in the unified States. Regimen statistics are voluntarily reported by virtually 18,000 police department nationwide, including cities, universities and colleges, counties, states, defect lands, and also federal law-enforcement agencies. In all, my sample contains 14,888 unique police agencies throughout 48 claims (Alaska and also Hawaii space excluded). I limit my analysis to the annual arrest counts for men and women age 15 come 24 from 1980 to 2010, which results in a complete of 2,627,438 observations.

The data space reported as aggregate counts of arrests through age, gender, and offense at every agency, through year. Ns make two assumptions: the the state wherein an arrest emerged is the state wherein the human being attended high school and that your graduation year would have been the year in which castle turned 18. The data encompass the number of arrests but not the total number of crimes or offenses committed.

While the arrest data are provided as the total number of arrests, a much more informative measure is the arrest rate, which accounts for population size. Due to the fact that agencies space not a generally measured geography area, the data save on computer an estimate of the total population within the jurisdiction of each police agency. Unfortunately, these populace estimates room not age-specific, therefore I usage federal data native the national Institutes of health to calculation age- and gender-specific populace estimates in each agency’s jurisdiction.

I consulted a range of sources to determine state requirements. Because that example, the minimum number of classes a graduation cohort would should pass to knife a diploma is based upon reports by the education Commission that the States and National center for education and learning Statistics. Exit-exam details is based upon infor­mation published by the center for education and learning Policy, among other sources.

To calculation the effects of widening coursework require­ments and adding exit exams, ns compare the arrest rates of graduation cohorts that were educated in the exact same state at various times. For example, take into consideration a state that introduced an leave exam for students intended to graduate in 2005. When analyzing the 2008 arrest data because that jurisdictions in the state, ns compare the arrest rates of young civilization age 21 and also under, who were topic to the exit exam requirement, come those period 22 to 24, that were not. By focusing on the arrest rates of various graduation cohorts in the same year, I eliminate the affect of other determinants that differ over time and are known to influence arrest rates, such together the variety of police officers a jurisdiction employs.

When making this comparisons, I control for the economic conditions in the jurisdiction as soon as each graduation cohort was in high school. I additionally control for several attributes of each state’s school device when the cohorts were in high school, such as the median pupil-to-teacher ratio, teacher salary, and also per-pupil expenditures. I assume that, after ~ making these adjustments, the only major difference between students from various graduation cohorts is that one group faced tougher graduation requirements.


Effects of leave Exams

When states broaden the coursework required to earn a diploma, there is no significant effect on arrests. But when lock mandate high-school leave exams, arrest prices fall.

Students who confront an departure exam have actually 2.2 under arrests every 1,000 individuals than those without any exit exams—approximately a 7 percent reduction from the local average (see number 2). This effect may be initially surprising provided the raised dropout rates associated with departure exams uncovered in prior research. However, exit exams might have significant effects beyond those because that the marginal students who room induced to drop out. Because that example, exams may aid refocus the curriculum, develop noncognitive skills, and potentially influence the labor-market worth of a diploma.

I find different effects top top arrests based upon the species of alleged offenses: over there is an 8 percent palliation in arrests for residential or commercial property crimes and also a 5 percent reduction in arrests for violent crime (see number 3). In looking at coursework requirements, I discover no solid effects on any kind of offense type.

These results are in line through what we might suppose room the theoretical effects of departure exams, and also previous research. If lot of the result is moved through boost in income due to higher wages or likelihood that employment, for example, climate it is reasonable to think that crime with monetary gains such together burglary, larceny, robbery, and also auto theft would certainly be many affected. If there are noncognitive mechanisms at work, then one might also expect alters in non-monetary crimes like murder, rape, or assault—which I discover in this results. If it may be surprising to see effects on violent crime, prior research study by Lance Lochner and Enrico Moretti uncovered statistically far-ranging reductions in violent crime due to increased education.


Impacts by Race and Income

I climate look in ~ which groups and community varieties are most impacted by the existence of a high-school leave exam. Prior research study on graduation needs and scholastic outcomes has uncovered a an unfavorable impact for African American and low-income students. Studies by cutting board Dee and Brian Jacob and by Steven Hemelt and Dave Marcotte discovered black students are much more likely to drop the end after schools require departure exams, for example, and also a study by man Papay, Richard Murnane, and John Willet found exit exams do it more likely the low-income students would not graduate. However, various other curriculum reforms are connected with positive impacts for this groups; because that example, Joshua Goodman discovered that in says where an ext math classes were required, african American students earned greater wages in adulthood.

For income, I discover that because that both types of graduation needs (that is, the presence of exit exams and also required courses for graduation), counties v the lowest typical incomes appear to check out the largest crime reductions. In particular, results for exit exams are large and statistically significant for the poorest counties, while results for counties in every other revenue quartiles space not considerably different indigenous zero or every other.

The patterns with respect come the gyeongju composition are rather different: exit exams exhibit far-ranging and huge crime-reducing effects for the two quartiles of counties through the highest percentage of white residents, if the results for the bottom two quartiles room smaller and also statistically insignificant.

I also find the both rural and urban counties exhibit big crime reductions because of exit test requirements, through no statistically significant effects in counties that room within huge metro areas but suburban in character.

These results administer some understanding into just how these effects could occur. If exit exams are useful in that they cause much more advantaged students to boost their skills and knowledge and therefore commit under offenses, while all at once causing an ext vulnerable students come drop out of college in greater numbers and also commit an ext offenses, us would intend to see less encouraging findings amongst populations whereby the dropout result is largest. Based upon the former literature, that would be amongst non-white, low-income, and also urban students, which is mainly what my evaluation finds. One exemption to this explanation is the finding that the biggest reductions in crime take place in the poorest counties. However, a potential factor for this detect is the those counties have the many crime before the reforms take it effect. Perhaps various other counties perform not have as lot crime to begin with, so the is more challenging to see big arrest-reducing results in those cases.

From a plan perspective, it’s important to note that this results show no significant increases in arrests for any kind of of the subgroups examined and are largest in low-income counties, i m sorry are often those most in require of crime reduction. However, the effects differ in counties whose populaces are predominately white or predominately minority; arrest rates fall an ext in greatly white counties 보다 in counties with bigger proportions that minorities. This says that these policies might widen already large gaps in arrest rates between white and minority residents, which might increase inequality in various other dimensions.

A complex Calculation

Taxpayers and also voters frequently tout slogans such together “build schools, not prisons” based on the common belief that education can deter crime. Indeed, my evaluation shows that details education policies, such together requiring high-school college student to happen an exit exam come graduate, result in lower prices of arrest.

The inquiry is, how? I view a few possibilities. The boosted accountability the an departure exam could motivate schools and also students to boost learning, or the initiative needed to pass the exam could likewise support students’ developing far better noncognitive skills. It likewise could rise the perceived value that a high-school diploma. Or, student could pick to to visit school an ext often, due to the fact that they recognize they will should prepare for and pass the exam in order to graduate.

Yet leave exams have been topic to widespread skepticism in the public discourse, including criticisms that they are punitive and also exclude too numerous low-income college student of color from earning your diplomas. The findings of this analysis provide evidence in donate of their use. The accountability and also rigor that exit exams impose appear to have farther-reaching services throughout neighborhoods than formerly assumed.

It is vital to realize that these benefits are an average effect, however, and also that departure exams may not be beneficial to every student. Indeed, part students on the margin the graduating might be required to fall out. In addition, I uncover evidence that exit exams may be much more beneficial because that white students than minority students, which might work to rise already large racial gaps in arrests. Though there is also evidence the the effects advantage lowest revenue counties the most, i beg your pardon could assist the areas most in need of crime reduction.

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While the explicit score of educational revolutionary is no to mitigate crime, the is definitely a optimistic result. Public education and learning is intended come prepare college student with an abilities and understanding they must participate totally in their adult lives, consisting of working, voting, and maintaining healthy and balanced communities. Surely lessened rates that arrest amongst young human being are an important component the that in its entirety goal. Raising the rigor that a high-school education, so lengthy as student who may be left behind are given the support they should succeed, deserve to promote windy safety and also purposeful adult lives.