SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL 4: Quality Education

Target 4.1: By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.

New York City recently announced that the public high school graduation rate for 2018 increased by 1.7% to 76% and the dropout rate decreased to 7.5%.

While this is positive news for NYC, it still puts NYC significantly behind the rest of America. The latest available statistics for the 2017 school year report a national graduation rate of 85% for public high school students, which is the highest since it was first measured in 2011. Asian/Pacific Islander students had the highest national rate (91%), followed by White (89%), Hispanic (80%), Black (78%), and American Indian/Alaska Native (72%) students1. Almost all groups exceeded NYC’s graduation rate.

NYC Graduation By Borough

The graduation and dropout rates vary by borough with the Bronx reporting significantly lower graduation and higher dropout rates than the rest of the City.2

2018 Graduation Rate
Students
Rate
YoY Diff
Bronx
13,951
67.4%
+1.1%
Brooklyn
20,566
76.6%
+2.2%
Queens
20,245
79.5%
+1.7%
Manhattan
15,521
76.7%
+1.8%
Staten Island
4,665
80.8%
+0.5%
2018 Dropout Rate
Dropout Rate
YoY Diff
Bronx
12.1%
+0.4%
Brooklyn
6.7%
-0.7%
Queens
5.9%
-0.4%
Manhattan
7.0%
-0.3%
Staten Island
5.5%
-0.5%

Per Pupil Cost vs Graduation Rate

NYC’s graduation rate is 9% lower than the national average yet at the same time it has the highest per pupil cost in America. New York City public schools spent $24,109 per pupil in fiscal 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which also happens to be twice the national average. Another interesting statistic is the Bronx has the highest per pupal cost in NYC. Based on these two data points one can conclude (incorrectly of course) that the higher the per pupil cost the lower the graduation rate.

Poverty vs Graduation Rate

The data shows a high correlation between poverty and high school graduation rates. With the exception of Manhattan (which is an anomaly in itself), the poverty rate by borough closely follows graduation rates. So, it’s not surprising that the Bronx has the lowest graduation rate, highest dropout rate and highest poverty rate. While Staten Island (again excluding Manhattan) has the best statistics.

Poverty vs Graduation Rates
Poverty Rate
Graduation Rate
Dropout Rate
Bronx
27.0%
67.4%
+1.1%
Brooklyn
19.6%
76.6%
+2.2%
Queens
17.8%
79.5%
+1.7%
Staten Island
16.8%
80.8%
+1.8%
Manhattan
13.2%
76.7%
+0.5%

If we assume the poverty rate is a leading indicator of graduation rates, the table below shows the improvements trumpeted by NYC are because of decreasing poverty in its two largest boroughs, than because of any other reason. Furthermore, the increasing poverty rate in the Bronx may be the reason behind the increasing dropout rate and indicate today’s gains in the graduation rate will be short lived.

NYCgov Poverty Rates by Borough, 2013-17

Conclusion

The graduation rates in America are at an all-time low but the rates of graduation vary greatly by region. We see there’s little correlation between funding and graduation while there is high correlation between poverty and graduation. Accordingly, society needs to focus less on money and more on the connection of poverty to graduation rates when considering ways of meeting Sustainability Development Target 4.1 which says, “All girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes”. We will always have people that don’t graduate for various reasons, but being poor should not be one of them.

Disclaimer

The above article is intended to raise awareness that the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) apply locally as much as globally and is not intended to present a solution. Solutions for SDGs are as diverse as the groups impacted, so I leave it to the reader to find their own SDG solution. Whether it’s activism, volunteering or investing, any contribution will make an impact.

For more information on this topic or impact investing contact ESGA at joe.holman@esgadmin.com.