Adults with High School Equivalency Diploma Are Similar to Dropouts, Not High School Graduates
The General Equivalency Diploma (GED) has been available since 1942 as a credential certifying the completion of secondary education, an alternative to a regular high school graduation. Approximately 40% of the diplomas are awarded to women, 60% to Whites, and about 18% each to Black and Hispanic adults. Over the course of the past 70 years, 18 million adults have earned the GED.
The GED’s value is predicated on the assumption that the degree is comparable to the regular high school diploma. Most population and education statistics, for instance, count GED recipients together with regular graduates. In a way, this is true because the skills required of a GED recipient is identical to that required of a regular graduate.
However, in numerous important ways, further research have shown that the outcomes of the GED recipients are not equivalent to those of regular high school graduates. It have been established that adults with a GED had consistently and considerably worse labor market outcomes than regular graduates. Additionally, researchers also documented the GED disadvantage in outcomes such as lower college completion rates, higher attrition from the military, higher crime rates, and higher rates of substance use.
Little is known about the health of adults with a GED, and the reason why health outcomes among GED recipients had been neglected is that until recently, few representative health surveys distinguished between a GED and a regular high school diploma. Recently, some researchers began examining health-related outcomes. GED recipients were found to have higher rate of health related issues such as smoking and alcohol use compared with graduates, and possibly also higher rates of depression. A recent study of mortality found that GED earners had higher risks of dying than regular graduates, although only among younger cohorts.
Comparing GED and regular high school recipients using 25 health outcomes in a large, nationally representative sample of US working-aged adults. In addition including high school drop outs in an analysis, GED recipients were assumed to be equivalent to high school graduates in knowledge and ability. However, GED recipients are more comparable to high school drop outs.
The GED credential was designed to be equivalent to a regular high school diploma. It was treated as such in multiple spheres. However, research showed that GED recipients were worse off than were high school graduates in various outcomes, from the labor market to college completion rates.
Studies have been conducted examined whether working-aged GED earners had health that was equivalent to the health of regular high school graduates, or whether it was closer to that of dropouts, who resembled the GED earners in not completing regular secondary schooling. 25 health indicators were studied, from chronic conditions to acute illness and multiple general health indicators. Compared with regular high school graduates, the adult GED recipients were significantly and substantially worse off in all outcomes. They were 30% to more than 250% more likely to report various health conditions and about twice as likely to report functional limitations, activity limitations, or poor or fair health. The GED–high school difference was smaller for acute illnesses like recent cold or sinusitis and larger for conditions associated with specific health behaviors like alcohol use and smoking (liver disease and emphysema, respectively). The GED disadvantage was evident in both genders, as well as among younger and older adults.
The key question was why adults with a GED were so much worse off than high school graduates in terms of health. We could draw on 3 models linking schooling and health in an attempt to explain this discrepancy: the quantity model, the credential model, and the selection model. The quantity model, related to the human capital model in econometrics, suggested that schooling develops skills, abilities, and resources that enable individuals to achieve a healthy life. Under the credential model, it was argued that a diploma opened occupational pathways that lead to a corresponding social and economic status, which in turn influences health. The selection model was recently proposed by Heckman et al., Cameron and Heckman, and Heckman and Rubinstein specifically to understand the GED–high school differences in various outcomes. They argued that GED recipients differed from regular graduates in noncognitive characteristics like persistence in reaching goals, self-efficacy, or the ability to delay gratification. They proposed that the limitations within these personality characteristics caused the GED earners to drop out of high school in the first place, and also affected their outcomes in later life.