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Taking the Easy Way Out: How the GED Testing Program Induces Students to Drop Out

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  • James J. Heckman
  • John Eric Humphries
  • Paul A. LaFontaine
  • Pedro L. Rodríguez

Abstract

The option to obtain a General Educational Development (GED) certificate changes the incentives facing high school students. This article evaluates the effect of three different GED policy innovations on high school graduation rates. A 6-point decrease in the GED pass rate produced a 1.3-point decline in high school dropout rates. The introduction of a GED certification program in high schools in Oregon produced a 4% decrease in high school graduation rates. Introduction of GED certificates for civilians in California increased the dropout rate by 3 points. The GED program induces students to drop out of high school.

Suggested Citation

  • James J. Heckman & John Eric Humphries & Paul A. LaFontaine & Pedro L. Rodríguez, 2012. "Taking the Easy Way Out: How the GED Testing Program Induces Students to Drop Out," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(3), pages 495-520.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/664924
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    1. James J. Heckman & Paul A. LaFontaine, 2010. "The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 244-262, May.
    2. Timothy G. Conley & Christopher R. Taber, 2011. "Inference with "Difference in Differences" with a Small Number of Policy Changes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(1), pages 113-125, February.
    3. James J. Heckman & Paul A. LaFontaine, 2006. "Bias-Corrected Estimates of GED Returns," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 661-700, July.
    4. Robert Kominski, 1990. "Estimating the National High School Dropout Rate," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 27(2), pages 303-311, May.
    5. Lillard, Dean R. & DeCicca, Philip P., 2001. "Higher standards, more dropouts? Evidence within and across time," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 459-473, October.
    6. Donald Kenkel & Dean Lillard & Alan Mathios, 2006. "The Roles of High School Completion and GED Receipt in Smoking and Obesity," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 635-660, July.
    7. Cameron, Stephen V & Heckman, James J, 1993. "The Nonequivalence of High School Equivalents," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages 1-47, January.
    8. repec:mpr:mprres:1894 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Richard J. Murnane, 2013. "U.S. High School Graduation Rates: Patterns and Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(2), pages 370-422, June.
    2. Heckman, James J. & Urzúa, Sergio, 2010. "Comparing IV with structural models: What simple IV can and cannot identify," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 156(1), pages 27-37, May.
    3. Pugatch, Todd, 2012. "Bumpy Rides: School to Work Transitions in South Africa," IZA Discussion Papers 6305, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Christopher Jepsen & Peter Mueser & Kenneth Troske, 2016. "Labor Market Returns to the GED Using Regression Discontinuity Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(3), pages 621-649.
    5. Heckman, James J. & Humphries, John Eric & Mader, Nicholas S., 2011. "The GED," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
      • James J. Heckman & John Eric Humphries & Nicholas S. Mader, 2010. "The GED," NBER Working Papers 16064, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
      • Heckman, James J. & Humphries, John Eric & Mader, Nicholas S., 2010. "The GED," IZA Discussion Papers 4975, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Richard Sutch, 2010. "The Unexpected Long-Run Impact of the Minimum Wage: An Educational Cascade," NBER Working Papers 16355, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Yi-Chun Chen & Siyang Xiong, 2008. "Topologies on Types: Connections," Discussion Papers 1470, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    8. Richard Sutch, 2010. "The Unexpected Long-Run Impact of the Minimum Wage: An Educational Cascade," Working Papers 201001, University of California at Riverside, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2010.
    9. Eduardo de Carvalho Andrade & Luciano I. de Castro, 2008. "Tougher Educational Exam Leading to Worse Selection," Discussion Papers 1469, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    10. Eduardo Andrade & Luciano De Castro, 2010. "Tougher Educational Exam Leading to Worse Selection," Discussion Papers 1533, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    11. Bridget Terry Long, 2010. "Dropout Prevention and College Prep," NBER Chapters,in: Targeting Investments in Children: Fighting Poverty When Resources are Limited, pages 249-282 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. de Carvalho Andrade, Eduardo & de Castro, Luciano I., 2011. "Tougher educational exam leading to worse selection," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 5, pages 1-24.

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    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis

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