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What’s Working: To Increase Grad Rates, Increase the Number of Adults In Your Community

Use this interactive map to find out the adult-to-child ratio in your neighborhood.

That’s a major finding from a new Center for Promise study, Who’s Minding the Neighborhood? The Role of Adult Capacity in Keeping Young People on a Path to Graduation.

For every seven more adults in a neighborhood, there is one fewer young person who leaves school without graduating.

While past studies have analyzed the impact of a low adult-to-youth ratio on violence and crime in America, this is the first that analyzes how a high adult-to-youth ratio (or adult capacity) can improve educational outcomes.

Overall, the study suggests that adding more adults in a community can help more young people graduate from high school, even after accounting for other important factors, such as income, education level, or race or ethnicity.

Major Findings on Race, Income

Here are some of the study’s key findings:

The effect is amplied in African-American neighborhoods. The researchers estimate that for every approximately five more adults in a predominantly Black or African-American community, one fewer young person leaves school—an effect that is 30 percent stronger than in other communities.

Adults can help, but they need resources. “Income matters in increasing the effect of adult capacity,” the report says, adding that doubling a neighborhood’s mean income increases the effect size of the ratio by 12 percent.

“This finding indicates that adults need institutional, social and economic resources – supported by income – to most effectively help young people,” the report states.

Adults do not, however, need more education to make a difference for kids. While adults with more income were able to help more young people, the effect didn’t change when researchers factored in education.

Center for Promise Executive Director and lead researcher Jonathan Zaff explained why in USA Today: “Education matters, but even if you have adults who don’t have a college degree, they do play a really important role in the education of youth in their community. It’s not this elitist thing: ‘Only those communities that have a lot of college-educated people will be able to do this.’ It really is that all adults have a role to play.”

Map the disparities in your own neighborhood.

Want to check out the adult-to-youth ratio in your community? Fortunately, there’s a map for that.

Through a partnership with Community Commons — a nonprofit collaboration powered by the Institute for People, Place and Possibility, the Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems, and Community Initiatives — you can find out the adult-to-youth ratio in your zip code.

You can also add other meaningful data to create maps and reports that explore your community’s health.

Map your zip code here.

This article is part of the “What’s Working” series, which highlights promising practices for helping to close the graduation gap in communities and states across the country.   


Join the GradNation Learning Community

To get more news about graduation rates and effective practices to increase them, join the GradNation Learning Community, a hub for sharing strategies and successful practices. Just send an email to Eboni-Rose Thompson with your name, email address and organizational affiliation. To join the conversation on Twitter, use #GradNation.

Learn more about the GradNation State Activation initiative

The GradNation State Activation initiative is a collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson to increase high school graduation rates by encouraging statewide innovation and collaboration, sharing that knowledge and replicating what works, and developing successful models all states can replicate.