High schoolers are dropping out to take high-wage, blue-collar jobs, says study. And that's a bad thing?


Is the lure of blue-collar jobs actually increasing high school drop-out rates? The answer is yes, according to a new study, "Who Needs a Fracking Education? The Educational Response to Low-Skill-Based Technological Change," by Elizabeth U. Cascia, Department of Economics, Dartmouth College, and Ayushi Narayan.

While there are many different types of blue-collar jobs in manufacturing, mining, oil and natural-gas drilling and more, Cascio’s study has determined that hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is causing high school students to leave school and head for the oil fields. Cascio’s study explores the “educational response to fracking . . . showing that local labor demands from fracking have been biased toward low-skilled labor and males, reducing the return to high school completion among men. We also show that fracking has increased high school dropout rates of male teens, both overall and relative to females.”

The study concludes that if it weren’t for fracking, teenage males would be dropping out of school at a lesser rate, “narrowing by about 11% between 2000 and 2013 instead of remaining unchanged.” Cascio accuses fracking of a “low-skill bias.” In other words, young people with low-skill levels are being lured into the fracking industry, which President Obama, in his State of the Union address in 2012, said could generate 600,00 jobs by 2020 and supply natural gas for almost 100 years. “Industry projections have suggested that 63% of new jobs are to be blue-collar jobs, suitable for those without high education,” quotes Cascio from an IHS Global Inc. report in 2014.

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