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Who Benefits from Obtaining a GED? Evidence from High School and Beyond

  • Richard J. Murnane
  • John B. Willett
  • John H. Tyler

This paper examines the value of the GED credential and the conventional high school diploma in explaining the earnings of 27-year-old males in the early 1990s. The data base is the High School & Beyond sophomore cohort. We replicate the basic findings of prior studies that implicitly assume the labor market value of the GED credential does not depend on the skills with which dropouts left school. We show that these average effects mask a more complicated pattern. Obtaining a GED is associated with higher earnings at age 27 for those male dropouts who had very weak cognitive skills as tenth graders, but not for those who had stronger cognitive skills as tenth graders.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7172.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7172.

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Date of creation: Jun 1999
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Publication status: published as Review of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 82, no. 1 (February 2000): 23-37.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7172
Note: LS CH
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page: http://www.nber.orgEmail:


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  1. David T. Ellwood, 1982. "Teenage Unemployment: Permanent Scars or Temporary Blemishes?," NBER Chapters, in: The Youth Labor Market Problem: Its Nature, Causes, and Consequences, pages 349-390 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1991. "The Nonequivalence of High School Equivalents," NBER Working Papers 3804, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  4. Stephen Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1994. "Determinants of Young Males' Schooling and Training Choices," NBER Chapters, in: Training and the Private Sector: International Comparisons, pages 201-232 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Kathryn Parker Boudett, 1997. "Does a G.E.D. lead to more training, post-secondary education, and military service for school dropouts?," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 51(1), pages 100-116, October.
  6. Robert H. Meyer & David A. Wise, 1979. "High School Preparation and Early Labor Force Experience," NBER Working Papers 0342, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. John H. Tyler & Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett, 1998. "Estimating the Impact of the GED on the Earnings of Young Dropouts Using a Series of Natural Experiments," NBER Working Papers 6391, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Derek A. Neal & William R. Johnson, 1995. "The Role of Pre-Market Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," NBER Working Papers 5124, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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