NBER Publications by John Eric Humphries

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Working Papers and Chapters

March 2014Education, Health and Wages
with James J. Heckman, Greg Veramendi, Sergio S. Urzua: w19971
This paper develops and estimates a model with multiple schooling choices that identifies the causal effect of different levels of schooling on health, health-related behaviors, and labor market outcomes. We develop an approach that is a halfway house between a reduced form treatment effect model and a fully formulated dynamic discrete choice model. It is computationally tractable and identifies the causal effects of educational choices at different margins. We estimate distributions of responses to education and find evidence for substantial heterogeneity in unobserved variables on which agents make choices. The estimated treatment effects of education are decomposed into the direct benefits of attaining a given level of schooling and indirect benefits from the option to continue on to fu...
March 2011Identification Problems in Personality Psychology
with Lex Borghans, Bart H.H. Golsteyn, James J. Heckman: w16917
This paper discusses and illustrates identification problems in personality psychology. The measures used by psychologists to infer traits are based on behaviors, broadly defined. These behaviors are produced from multiple traits interacting with incentives in situations. In general, measures are determined by these multiple traits and do not identify any particular trait unless incentives and other traits are controlled for. Using two data sets, we show, as an example, that substantial portions of the variance in achievement test scores and grades, which are often used as measures of cognition, are explained by personality variables.
June 2010The GED
with James J. Heckman, Nicholas S. Mader: w16064
The General Educational Development (GED) credential is issued on the basis of an eight hour subject-based test. The test claims to establish equivalence between dropouts and traditional high school graduates, opening the door to college and positions in the labor market. In 2008 alone, almost 500,000 dropouts passed the test, amounting to 12% of all high school credentials issued in that year. This chapter reviews the academic literature on the GED, which finds minimal value of the certificate in terms of labor market outcomes and that only a few individuals successfully use it as a path to obtain post-secondary credentials. Although the GED establishes cognitive equivalence on one measure of scholastic aptitude, recipients still face limited opportunity due to deficits in noncognitive sk...
May 2008Taking the Easy Way Out: How the GED Testing Program Induces Students to Drop Out
with James J. Heckman, Paul A. LaFontaine, Pedro L. Rodriguez: w14044
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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