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ERIC Number: ED541694
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 26
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 20
Young GED[R] Credential Recipients in the 21st Century: A Snapshot from NLSY97
Song, Wei; Patterson, Margaret Becker
GED Testing Service
Ever since achieving a high school credential by passing the GED Tests became widely institutionalized through the adult education programs in the United States, the outcomes for GED credential recipients have continued to be of great interest to the adult education community and the general public. Does earning a GED credential bring positive life changes to the adults who did not complete a high school education? Does obtaining a GED credential help the recipients find better employment opportunities and earn higher wages? Among the studies on labor market outcomes of GED credential recipients, the most influential was the 1993 study by Cameron and Heckman, which was based on the NLSY79 data and argued that GED credential recipients are "nonequivalence of high school equivalents," and that they are "indistinguishable in many relevant labor market dimensions" from uncredentialed high school dropouts. Now, almost two decades after the Cameron and Heckman study, has anything changed with a new generation of American youth? Based on a new wave of NLSY data (NLSY97), this paper aims to examine how GED credential recipients compare with other young adults who had not completed a high school education and with traditional high school graduates on their labor market performance. The study found that GED credential recipients' hourly compensation on their most recent job is much higher than that of the high school dropouts and is closer to that of the high school graduates, both of which are in the $14 range. For GED credential recipients and high school graduates at five years or more after obtaining their credential or diploma, the hourly wages are about the same, around $15. In terms of work hours, wage income, family income, and poverty ratio, GED credential recipients seem to fall between high school dropouts and high school graduates. The study also looked into job satisfaction, employer size, fringe benefits, industry, and occupation. The study then uses multiple regressions to assess the impact of educational status on hourly compensation and hours of work for the NLSY97 members who did not pursue postsecondary education. After controlling for individual demographic, ability, work experience, and employer industry, GED credential recipients' hourly wages on average could be 6.7 to 9.3 percent higher than those of high school dropouts, while the high school graduates' hourly wages could be 6.2 to 6.7 percent higher than those of GED credential recipients. GED credential recipients' annual hours could also be 120 hours (approximately 11 percent) longer than those of high school dropouts, while high school graduates' work hours could be 120 to 180 hours (approximately 10 to 15 percent) longer than those of GED credential recipients. Finally, this paper discusses the findings from earlier sections and suggests policy implications and future research studies. Appended are: (1) Labor Market Outcomes by Degree Type, from Various Data Sources; and (2) Ordinary Least Squares Regression Coefficients for Log-Wages and Work Hours: All Education Groups. (Contains 12 tables and 2 footnotes.)
GED Testing Service. Available from: American Council on Education. One Dupont Circle NW Suite 250, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-939-9490; Fax: 202-659-8875; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Adult Education; High School Equivalency Programs
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: American Council on Education, GED Testing Service
Identifiers - Location: United States
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: General Educational Development Tests; National Longitudinal Survey of Youth