In a series of empirical research papers based on the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), we have investigated the determinants and consequences of various forms of post-secondary education and training. The goal of this research is to broaden the analysis of post-secondary education to consider a variety of non-academic training options that are widely used but rarely studied. These options are especially important for the study of minority schooling and workforce attachment patterns. All of our analyses are done for male youth.
A variety of forms of non-traditional education are considered: public job training, military training, business and proprietary schooling, community college education, on the job training (formal instruction from employers) and apprenticeship programs. Rather than analyzing these choices in isolation, we consider the choices that individuals make from the full spectrum they confront. Our analysis of choices considers these options as well as the options of working without formal training, serving in the military without training, not working at all, and more traditional educational choices. We also consider participation in "second chance" activities such as Adult Basic Education and General Equivalence Degree programs.
Our analyses of the NLSY data challenge the conventional wisdom. Exam-certified high school graduates do no better in the labor market than high school dropouts with the same number of years of classroom training. There is little evidence of any direct economic benefit to exam certification. However, GED recipients are more likely to qualify for post-secondary training benefits than do dropouts. The modest economic benefit that arises from exam certification is solely a consequence of additional training activity. GED recipients do less well in these training programs than ordinary high school graduates. Our study finds little evidence of any social return to GED test-taking. The private return to GED certification arises from its role in satisfying bureaucratically-determined requirements for post-secondary training and schooling programs.