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Open Access Publications from the University of California

From GED to College: The Role of Age and Timing in Educational Stratification


GED certification has changed the landscape of educational stratification in the U.S. People who complete high school by obtaining a GED are less likely to go to college than those who obtain a traditional high school diploma. Disparities in family background and cognitive skills explain some of the differences in college entry rates between the two groups. Past research, however, ignores the effect of age and timing on each group's transition from secondary to post-secondary schooling. Age is likely to influence college entry because educational attainment is a highly age-dependent process. GED recipients complete high school at later ages than traditional graduates and take longer to make the transition from high school to college. These differences in age are likely to influence the odds of college entry, independent of factors such as family background and cognitive skills. I use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and discrete time hazard analysis to investigate the relationship between the timing of educational transitions and differences in rates of college entry between traditional graduates and GED recipients. The analysis shows that adjusting for differences in family background and cognitive skills accounts for less than half the difference in rates of college entry while controlling for age and timing accounts for much of the remaining difference. Once social background, cognitive skills and age are controlled, estimated adjusted cumulative probabilities of college entry are nearly equal between the two groups.

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