Paul A. LaFontaine

1155 E. 60th Street
Chicago IL 60637

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NBER Working Papers and Publications

May 2008Taking the Easy Way Out: How the GED Testing Program Induces Students to Drop Out
with James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, 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.

Published: James J. Heckman & John Eric Humphries & Paul A. LaFontaine & Pedro L. Rodr�guez, 2012. "Taking the Easy Way Out: How the GED Testing Program Induces Students to Drop Out," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(3), pages 495 - 520. citation courtesy of

March 2008The Declining American High School Graduation Rate: Evidence, Sources, And Consequences
with James Heckman NBER Reporter 2008 number 1
December 2007The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels
with James J. Heckman: w13670
This paper uses multiple data sources and a unified methodology to estimate the trends and levels of the U.S. high school graduation rate. Correcting for important biases that plague previous calculations, we establish that (a) the true high school graduation rate is substantially lower than the official rate issued by the National Center for Educational Statistics; (b) it has been declining over the past 40 years; (c) majority/minority graduation rate differentials are substantial and have not converged over the past 35 years; (d) the decline in high school graduation rates occurs among native populations and is not solely a consequence of increasing proportions of immigrants and minorities in American society; (e) the decline in high school graduation explains part of the recent slowdow...

Published: James J Heckman & Paul A LaFontaine, 2010. "The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 244-262, 01. citation courtesy of

February 2006Bias Corrected Estimates of GED Returns
with James J. Heckman: w12018
Using three sources of data, this paper examines the direct economic return to GED certification for both native and immigrant high school dropouts. One data source %u2013 the CPS %u2013 is plagued by non-response and allocation bias from the hot-deck procedure that biases upward the estimated return to the GED. Correcting for allocation bias and ability bias, there is no direct economic return to GED certification. An apparent return to GED certification with age found in the raw CPS data is due to dropouts becoming more skilled over time. These results apply to native born as well as immigrant populations.

Published: Heckman, James J. and Paul A. LaFontaine. "Bias-Corrected Estimates Of GED Returns," Journal of Labor Economics, 2006, v24(3,Jul), 661-800. citation courtesy of

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