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College Readiness, Early Post-secondary Academic Performance and the GED Degree: Evidence from Kentucky

  • T. M. Tonmoy Islam and Kathryn Rouse EMAIL logo


We use detailed administrative data from Kentucky to provide robust descriptive evidence on the relationship between the General Educational Development (GED) degree, college readiness, and early post-secondary (PSE) academic performance. Following previous work in this area, we address selection issues by focusing on a sample of students who are identified as at-risk prior to high school entry. Our results suggest the GED credential is not a credible signal of PSE readiness, particularly in mathematics. GED graduates attain a lower first semester GPA and are also less likely to re-enroll in second semester courses. We also find that changes made to the GED exam in 2014 to enhance student readiness in PSE institutions did not yield meaningful improvements. Finally, we investigate the extent to which differences in math coursework can explain estimated GED-related math readiness gaps, finding coursework to account for about for about 40 percent of the observed gap.

JEL Classification: I21; I23

Corresponding author: Kathryn Rouse, Department of Economics, Elon University, 2075 CB, Elon, NC 27244, USA, E-mail:


We are grateful to the Kentucky Center for Statistics for the data used in this paper. We especially thank Kate Shirley Akers, Cody Davidson, Barrett Ross, Kari Whitt and Jessica Cunningham.


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Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (

Received: 2021-08-02
Revised: 2021-10-14
Accepted: 2021-11-02
Published Online: 2021-11-15

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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