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The GED

Author

Listed:
  • Heckman, James J.

    () (University of Chicago)

  • Humphries, John Eric

    () (Yale University)

  • Mader, Nicholas S.

    () (University of Chicago)

Abstract

The General Educational Development (GED) credential is issued on the basis of an eight hour subject-based test. The test claims to establish equivalence between dropouts and traditional high school graduates, opening the door to college and positions in the labor market. In 2008 alone, almost 500,000 dropouts passed the test, amounting to 12% of all high school credentials issued in that year. This chapter reviews the academic literature on the GED, which finds minimal value of the certificate in terms of labor market outcomes and that only a few individuals successfully use it as a path to obtain post-secondary credentials. Although the GED establishes cognitive equivalence on one measure of scholastic aptitude, recipients still face limited opportunity due to deficits in noncognitive skills such as persistence, motivation and reliability. The literature finds that the GED testing program distorts social statistics on high school completion rates, minority graduation gaps, and sources of wage growth. Recent work demonstrates that, through its availability and low cost, the GED also induces some students to drop out of school. The GED program is unique to the United States and Canada, but provides policy insight relevant to any nation's educational context.

Suggested Citation

  • Heckman, James J. & Humphries, John Eric & Mader, Nicholas S., 2010. "The GED," IZA Discussion Papers 4975, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4975
    as

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    File URL: http://ftp.iza.org/dp4975.pdf
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    Other versions of this item:

    • James J. Heckman & John Eric Humphries & Nicholas S. Mader, 2010. "The GED," NBER Working Papers 16064, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & John H. Tyler, 2000. "Who Benefits from Obtaining a GED? Evidence from High School and Beyond," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(1), pages 23-37, February.
    2. Melissa Clark & David Jaeger, 2006. "Natives, the foreign-born and high school equivalents: new evidence on the returns to the GED," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 19(4), pages 769-793, October.
    3. Hansen, Karsten T. & Heckman, James J. & Mullen, K.J.Kathleen J., 2004. "The effect of schooling and ability on achievement test scores," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 39-98.
    4. 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.
    5. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J & Masterov, Dimitriy V, 2005. "Labor Market Discrimination and Racial Differences in Premarket Factors," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(1), pages 1-39, April.
    6. John H. Tyler & Jeffrey R. Kling, 2004. "Prison-Based Education and Re-Entry into the Mainstream Labor Market," Working Papers 12, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    7. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Kathryn Parker Boudett, 1997. "Does Acquisition of a GED Lead to More Training, Post-Secondary Education, and Military Service for School Dropouts?," NBER Working Papers 5992, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Tyler, John H. & Murnane, Richard J. & Willett, John B., 2003. "Who benefits from a GED? Evidence for females from High School and Beyond," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 237-247, June.
    11. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Kathryn Parker Boudett, 1999. "Do Male Dropouts Benefit from Obtaining a GED, Postsecondary Education, and Training?," Evaluation Review, , vol. 23(5), pages 475-503, October.
    12. Imbens, Guido W. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2008. "Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 615-635, February.
    13. 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.
    14. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
    15. Li, Jingyuan, 2009. "Comparative higher-degree Ross risk aversion," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 333-336, December.
    16. Michael Spence, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-374.
    17. Yona Rubinstein & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Importance of Noncognitive Skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 145-149, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Heckman, James J. & Kautz, Tim, 2012. "Hard evidence on soft skills," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 451-464.
    2. Borghans, Lex & Meijers, Huub & ter Weel, Bas, 2013. "The importance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for measuring IQ," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 17-28.
    3. Megan Millenky, 2016. "Connecting high school dropouts to employment and education: an impact study of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program," IZA Journal of Labor Policy, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-17, December.
    4. Greenland, Andrew & Lopresti, John, 2016. "Import exposure and human capital adjustment: Evidence from the U.S," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 50-60.
    5. Marla McDaniel & Daniel Kuehn, 2013. "What Does a High School Diploma Get You? Employment, Race, and the Transition to Adulthood," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 371-399, December.
    6. Biewen, Martin & Tapalaga, Madalina, 2017. "Life-cycle educational choices in a system with early tracking and ‘second chance’ options," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 80-94.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    graduation rate; dropouts; GED; returns to education; noncognitive skills;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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