However, once out of education and with few qualifications, they become trapped in a "revolving door" of benefits and low-paid jobs. Within months many "fall off the margins and face a lifetime of social exclusion and crime", the report claims.
Finding the Missing, a study of 150 young adults - mostly young men - aged 16-25 who were not in education, training or work, revealed many had deliberately dropped out of school with high hopes of making enough money to finance a good social life and lead an independent lifestyle. Instead they struggled to find even casual or seasonal jobs and their experiences left them feeling bitter.
Bryan Merton, the former inspector and youth worker who wrote the report, said: "They see no point in studying at school when they think they can earn money. Many had unstable family lives and were keen to make their own way in the world. But the work is often precarious. Within months of leaving school the picture changes, and their enthusiasm and motivation is gone, leaving them facing a lifetime of unemployment, government schemes, seasonal or cash-only jobs. It's hardly surprising then that some turn to crime."
"Finding the Missing" is published by the National Youth Agency, 17-23 Albion Street, Leicester, LE1 6GD, tel: 0116 2856789, price Pounds 7.50.