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‘Second-chance’ strategies for women who drop out
December, 2000, Vol. 123, No. 12
Katheryn Parker Boudett, Richard J. Murnane and John B. Willett
In an economy that increasingly values skills, can a young woman without a high school diploma get a second chance? This article investigates four educational opportunities pursued by young women who drop out of high school. It begins with a discussion of the mechanisms through which these educational investments may affect earnings, and a brief review of relevant research. The article then documents the ways in which women who engage in educational activities differ from those who do not. Discussed next is the analytic strategy employed for distinguishing the effects of education and training on earnings from the effects of different preexisting characteristics on earnings. The article concludes with a presentation of the results of the study and a discussion of their significance.
Four educational opportunities available to women without traditional high school diplomas. The most common educational activity pursued by women in the sample used in this study is obtaining the General Educational Development (GED) credential. The GED is awarded to those who receive passing scores on a battery of tests of writing, social studies, science, reading, and mathematics. For individuals who dropped out of school with relatively strong academic skills, passing this test may be a matter of minimal preparation and one sitting of the 7˝-hour battery of exams. For others, passing the test is a goal achieved only after months or years of remedial work and GED preparation classes. Although the data that follow do not permit one to know how many hours individuals prepare for the exam, for the purposes of this article, obtaining a GED will be referred to as an "educational activity."
The second educational activity pursued by women in the sample may be termed "off-the-job training." It includes training offered by proprietary institutions (such as beauty schools and secretarial schools) and those programs provided by government agencies (such as the Job Corps, the Youth Conservation Corps, and programs funded under the Job Training Partnership Act).1 The third type of activity is "on-the-job training," defined as training provided by an individual’s employer. This category includes formal company training programs run by the employer, seminars or training programs at work conducted by someone other than the employer, and training programs outside of work that were sponsored by the employer.2 The final educational alternative examined is college, which includes community college and, of limited relevance to the sample studied in this article, 4-year college.
This excerpt is from an article published in the December 2000 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 Types of training are summarized in this way because inconsistencies in the collection of data make it difficult to distinguish reliably between the various types of training in all survey years. For example, funding for the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) shifted in 1987 from the Employment and Training Administration to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, resulting in a decreased emphasis on distinguishing between government and other types of training. (see NLSY User’s Guide (Columbus, OH, Ohio State University, Center for Human Resource Research, 1995), chapters 1.14, 1.35.)
2 The learning of skills on the job as part of the experience of working, but not as part of a formal training program, is not deemed on-the-job training.
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