Unequal Access: Punishment and High School Completion

Open Access
Cuevas-Buendia, Gerardo Valente
Graduate Program:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
July 26, 2016
Committee Members:
  • David M Ramey, Thesis Advisor
  • Jeremy Staff, Committee Member
  • Derek Allen Kreager, Committee Member
  • School punishment
  • High School Graduation
  • Race and Ethnicity
Youth who have been arrested or suspended encounter many barriers to educational success in the United States. Arrest and suspension increase the likelihood of students to miss school, homework assignments, and exams, making it difficult to earn passing grades. Previous studies have focused on the relationship between school suspension and arrest on long-term educational attainment (Kirk & Sampson, 2013). This study contributes to the literature by examining whether the frequency of arrests and school suspensions (i.e. number of days suspended or times arrested) influences the likelihood of completing high school, and whether this relationship varies by race and ethnicity. Data from the 1997 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) is used to compare the educational achievement of African American, White, and Latino youth who were arrested or suspended. The NLSY 97 follows the employment and school experiences of 12-17 year old male and female respondents over their life course. The results suggest that arrest and suspension decrease the likelihood of high school completion after controlling for behavior, educational achievement, and socio-economic background. Furthermore, each additional arrest and each additional day suspended lower the odds of completing high school. Misbehavior and poor academic performance lower the odds of high school graduation. In addition, the outcomes suggest that the effects of suspension and arrest on high school graduation do not vary by race/ethnicity. Overall, the results suggest that school punishment and involvement with criminal justice system are negatively associated with high school completion. Future research should examine the impact of school punishment on college enrollment.