General Education Development (GED) Recipients’ Life Course Experiences: Humanizing the Findings
Hartigan, Lacey Ann
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This study examines a range of GED recipients’ life course contexts and experiences and their relationship with long-term outcomes. Using descriptive comparisons, bivariate tests, and propensity-score matched regression models to analyze data from rounds 1-15 of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997, analyses aim to examine: (1) differential adolescent experiences and contexts between GED recipients and high school graduates; (2) whether differences in adult outcomes between GED recipients and high school graduates can be minimized by accounting for these adolescent contexts and experiences; and (3) adolescent predictors of positive adult outcomes for GED recipients. Additional analyses examine differences in adolescence between GED recipients who went on to obtain a postsecondary credential and those who did not and identify predictors of postsecondary attainment within the GED recipient group. Findings revealed that GED recipients’ contexts and experiences in adolescence were characterized by greater risk exposure (e.g., gang involvement, teen parenthood) in comparison to high school graduates. Collectively, these differences revealed that more risk factors were present in GED recipients’ lives long before they dropped out of high school. Even after accounting for a range of factors from multiple ecological domains in adolescence, GED recipients still had significantly lower household income-to-poverty ratios and lower rates of postsecondary educational attainment than their high school graduate counterparts. However, their general and behavioral health (e.g., alcohol misuse, exercise behaviors) outcomes were either equivalent or better than high school graduates’ outcomes. Looking within the GED recipient group, recipients who eventually completed a postsecondary credential differed in adolescence from those who did not on a number of factors, such as engagement in risky behavior and parental education. Overall, findings suggest that differences between GED recipients and high school graduates existed in a range of ecological domains in adolescence and accounting for these differences attenuated differences in these two groups’ outcomes in adulthood in some cases but not in others. Findings also suggest that GED recipients with a postsecondary credential had different adolescent experiences than recipients without a postsecondary credential. These results signal points for prevention, early intervention, and support for recipients post-GED receipt.
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