Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Julie L. Hotchkiss - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Lucretia Payton-Stewart

Third Advisor

Dr. Jorge Martinez-Vazquez

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Shiferaw Gurmu


Federal education policy has targeted children who are disadvantaged in order to improve their academic performance. The most recent federal education policy is the No Child Left Behind law signed by President Bush in 2001. Indicators often used to identify an at-risk youth range from economic, personal, family, and neighborhood characteristics. A probit model is used in this study to estimate the probability that a student graduates from high school as a function of 8th grade variables. Students are classified as at-risk of dropping out of high school or non at-risk based on having one or more risk factor. The main measures of academic outcomes are high school completion and post-secondary academic achievements. The main measures of labor market outcomes are short-term and long-term earnings. The results show that a student who comes from a low income family, has a sibling who dropped out, has parents with low education, is home alone after school for three hours or more, or comes from a step family in the eighth grade is at-risk of dropping out of high school. At-risk students are less likely than non at-risk students to graduate from high school. They appear to be more sensitive to existing conditions that may impair/assist their academic progress while they are in high school. At-risk students are also less likely to select a bachelor’s degree. When they are compared to comparable non at-risk students, a greater percentage of at-risk students select a bachelor’s degree or post-graduate degrees than non at-risk students. At-risk individuals face long-term disadvantage in the labor market, receiving lower wage offers than the non at-risk group. Comparing only those without post secondary education shows that the average earnings offered to at-risk individuals were lower than those offered to non at-risk individuals. At-risk college graduates also receive lower earnings than non at-risk college graduates. The wage differential is largely due to the disadvantage at-risk individuals face in the labor market.


Included in

Economics Commons