May 2008

IZA DP No. 3495: Taking the Easy Way Out: How the GED Testing Program Induces Students to Drop Out

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

published in: Journal of Labor Economics, 2012, 30 (3), 495-520

The option to obtain a General Education Development (GED) certificate changes the incentives facing high school students. This paper evaluates the effect of three different GED policy innovations on high school graduation rates. A six point decrease in the GED pass rate due to an increase in national passing standards produced a 1.3 point decline in overall high school dropout rates. The introduction of a GED certification program in high schools in Oregon produced a four percent decrease in high school graduation rates. Introduction of GED certificates for civilians in California increased the high school dropout rate by 3 points. The GED program induces students to drop out of high school.


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