Dropping out of high school, dropping into jail

The end of the year brings many gifts to data lovers, and two non-unrelated reports hit computer screens today: the Department of Justice’s annual prison population census and the Department of Education’s annual report on high school dropout rates. We will be crunching the numbers and mapping the data from these and other surveys in the future, but one thing that jumps out from the Justice report is that New Hampshire had the only double-digit percentage growth in its prison population from 2005 to 2006. The number of prisoners in the Granite State went from 2,530 to 2,805, or up 10.9 percent (versus a national increase of 2.8 percent, and a jump in Massachusetts of 3.1 percent). That’s still relatively low for the state’s size (Hawaii has more than twice as many prisoners), but the change is startling.

Also surprising is that New Hampshire, which is generally one of the best-educated states, had a high school dropout rate of 3.5 percent in 2004-05, not too far below the 3.9 national rate. In Massachusetts, the rate was 3.8 percent; it was highest in Alaska (8.2 percent) and lowest in North Dakota (1.9 percent).