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Volume XXII, Number 3
Summer 1992

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Study shows earning GED improves job success and earnings

A bulletin from the Iowa Department of Education

This bulletin is reprinted with permission from Quarterly Exchange [April 1992, 3(2), 4], a newsletter of the Iowa Association for Lifelong Learning.

(DES MOINES) Iowans who earn GED diplomas see significant gains in employment, earnings, skill levels and job satisfaction, according to results of a study released today (Feb. 17) by the Iowa Department of Education.

For 50 years, the General Educational Development certificate has offered high school dropouts across the country a second chance to finish high school and increase their opportunities for getting jobs and continuing their education. The Iowa study is one of the first in the nation to measure the long-term impact of earning a GED. About 1,600 Iowans who earned certificates in 1980, 1985, and 1988 were queried to determine the impact the GED had on their careers and quality of life between the time they passed the GED and 1990.

While 19 percent of the respondents were unemployed before passing the GED, only 9 percent were unemployed in 1990. Although 54 percent had been employed before passing the GED, 71 percent had jobs in 1990.

The respondent's personal income increased substantially, according to the study. Average personal income rose from $12,404 before passing the GED to $17,764 in 1990, an increase of 43 percent. Adjusted for inflation, respondents' average income for all Iowans decreased by more than 10 percent between 1980 and 1990.

Far fewer of the GED holders received public assistance payments. Of the 192 people surveyed who received welfare before earning their GED, 135 (70 percent) were no longer on welfare by 1990. Five percent of those who did not receive welfare before passing the GED did receive it in 1990.

Employment benefits increased substantially for the survey respondents. Before passing the GED, 62 percent had health insurance, 51 percent had life insurance and 17 percent were enrolled in pension programs. In 1990, 74 percent had health insurance, 67 percent had life insurance, and 34 percent were enrolled in pension programs.

The respondents also indicated they had jobs which required more skills, and they were more satisfied with their jobs.

"All the evidence indicates earning a GED has positive and long-lasting results," said John Hartwig, Coordinator of the study for the Iowa Department of Education. "Efforts by educators and family members to encourage adults to get their GED are important because a GED can open doors to jobs and further education that might otherwise be closed," said Hartwig. "This has always been the philosophy behind the program, but we now have reliable data to document the positive effects."

Most respondents said that earning a GED had affected their lives in other ways, including helping them assist their children with school work, helping them to be better parents and improving their self-esteem, said Hartwig. "These intangible results may be some of the most beneficial," he said. "The respondents said the most significant result the GED had on their lives was improving their self-esteem."

Among other results of the study were:


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