May 13, 2010

Hispanics, High School Dropouts and the GED

Appendix A: Data Quality

The new educational attainment data provide a snapshot of the highest education level of adults, but they do not reveal the fraction of adults who have ever obtained a GED. Some adults who obtain a GED go on to college and complete college credits. These individuals have at least some college education and are not included in the proportion of adults whose highest credential is a GED. Recent estimates indicate that at least 6% of Hispanic young adults complete high school via the GED. Combining GED test data with 2000 Census data, Heckman and LaFontaine (2007) find that 7% of Hispanic 20- to 24-year-olds finished high school via the GED. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that at age 22, 6% of Hispanics had a GED and were not enrolled in college (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010). Youths who obtained a GED and were enrolled in college are not included in this figure. Hispanic 22-year-olds were less likely than their white and black peers to have a GED and not be enrolled in college.

The finding that 5% of native-born Hispanics’ highest education attainment is a GED seems consistent with the estimates that at least 6% of young Hispanics finish high school via GED. We do not know how many Hispanic GED holders go on to postsecondary education. But about 40% of youths (of all races and ethnicities) who obtain a GED enroll in some form of postsecondary education (National Center for Education Statistics, 1998). Many enroll in certificate and other non-degree programs, but about 20% enroll in a two- or four-year program. Assuming that young Hispanic GED holders pursue degree programs at a similar rate to other GED holders, the 5% of native-born Hispanics who have ended their education with a GED implies that 6.25% finished high school via the GED.