School dropout in Central America : an overview of trends, causes, consequences, and promising interventions
Adelman, Melissa Ann
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School dropout is a growing concern in Central America, and in Latin America as a whole, because of its consequences for economic productivity, the inclusiveness of growth, social cohesion, and increasing youth risks. This paper utilizes more than two decades of household survey data to construct a systematic overview of school dropout at the primary and secondary levels in Central America, including recent trends, causes and consequences, and evidence on what works to reduce dropout. Within each country, poverty, rurality, and indigenous group membership are the strongest correlates of dropout, reflecting several underlying factors that affect the marginal benefits and costs of staying in school. Global and regional evidence increasingly points to common policy priorities for reducing dropout across Central America, including addressing remaining gaps in access at the pre-primary and secondary levels, improving the quality of education at all levels, and strengthening the coverage, targeting, and coherence of existing programs aimed at improving education outcomes. However, additional rigorous evaluations, including cost data, are needed to identify the most effective specific approaches in each country.