What’s Keeping Hispanic High School Dropouts from Earning a GED?

In NLLSA on May 15, 2010 by Barbara

1 in 10. That is the number of Hispanic high school dropouts who later obtain a General Educational Development (GED) credential, according to a report released this week by the Pew Hispanic Center. The report, titled “Hispanics, High School Dropouts and the GED,” is an analysis of information obtained from U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey.

The report compared data for Hispanic adults to that for black, white (non-Hispanic), and Asian adults, and also distinguished between foreign-born and U.S.-born Hispanics. Approximately 41% of Hispanics 20 years of age or older do not have a standard high school diploma, while only 23% of blacks, 15% of Asians, and 14% of whites do not have this degree. More than half (52%) of foreign-born Hispanic adults have dropped out of high school while a quarter of those born in the United States have failed to obtain a high school diploma.  Among these adults, 21% of U.S.-born Hispanics have a GED, while only 5% of foreign-born Hispanics have it.

Why don’t more Hispanics get a GED? An Associated Press article on the report referred to a “lack of information” about the GED and the need for Hispanic students to support their families as reasons that keep them from pursuing this option. As for the disparities between foreign- and U.S.-born Hispanics, the report’s author, Richard Fry, told CNN in an interview that “[i]t takes a little bit of time [for the foreign-born] to figure things out.”

This report highlights several interesting points. First, GED tests are offered in Spanish. Second, Hispanics in correctional facilities, nursing homes, or other similar institutions have a higher likelihood of obtaining a GED than those who are not in these institutions. According to the report, over 10% of the GEDs are awarded by correctional facilities. Third, full-time Hispanic workers with GEDs had slightly higher mean earnings ($33,504) than those with high school diplomas ($32,972).

What can be done to narrow this gap, and whose responsibility is it to generate awareness among this community? Even if more Hispanics were aware that the GED was available in Spanish, would they really be more likely to take it? Or will the burdens of supporting their families exceed the benefits from getting the GED, which may or may not provide more earning power?

There are so many questions raised by this report, and so few answers.


Barbara Barreno, a rising third-year student at Vanderbilt University Law School, is NLLSA’s South Atlantic Regional Director.


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