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The GED

James Heckman, John Humphries () and Nicholas S. Mader

No 16064, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

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.

JEL-codes: I21 J24 J31 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2010-06
Note: CH ED LS PE
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Published as “The GED,” (with J. E. Humphries and N. S. Mader). In, E. A. Hanushek, S. Machin, and L. W ̈ oßmann (eds.) Handbook of the Economics Of Education, Volume 3 . Amsterdam: North-Holland. pp. 423-484. (2011).

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