The Adult Transition of At-Risk Youth: Mode of Exit from High School
This paper takes a life course perspective on differences in high school exit mode and its consequences for students not going to four-year colleges. Using detailed life history data from the Baltimore Beginning School Study archive, we show that the employment rate for dropouts who later get diplomas is higher than the rate for dropouts who later get GEDs, other things equal. Put another way, after taking into account personal and social assets, including non-cognitive skills, years of pre- and postsecondary education, and jail history, a dropout who gets a diploma does better in the labor market at age 22 than does a dropout who gets a GED. The discussion emphasizes timing of exit mode in the life cycle, opportunity costs, and changes in high school policies designed to encourage youth to seek diplomas rather than GEDs.
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