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Recipients of General Educational Development certificates fare better in earnings and rates of employment than high-school dropouts, but not as well as high-school graduates, a new national study has found.

The study, conducted by David L. Passmore, a professor of vocational and adult education at Pennsylvania State University, found that in 1985 64 percent of recipients of the high-school equivalency diploma were employed, compared with 56 percent of those with neither a ged certificate nor a high-school diploma. By contrast, 78 percent of those with a diploma were employed.

Among those who were working, ged recipients earned, on average, $5.50 an hour, while dropouts earned $5.13 an hour. High-school graduates earned, on average, $5.50 an hour, the study found.

Mr. Passmore's is the first national study of the economic benefits of a ged certificate, according to Douglas R. Whitney, the director of the ged testing service at the American Council on Education. The ace administers the program in conjunction with state education departments.

"This should demonstrate to states the wisdom of encouraging adults to continue their education," Mr. Whitney said. "Economically, it has direct payoffs."

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