What you do in high school matters: High School GPA, educational attainment, and labor market earnings as a young adult

Michael French, Jenny F. Homer, Ioana Popovici, Philip Robins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Scopus citations


Using abstracted grades and other data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, we investigate the relationships between cumulative high school grade point average (GPA), educational attainment, and labor market earnings among a sample of young adults (ages 24-34). We estimate several models with an extensive list of control variables and high school fixed effects. Results consistently show that high school GPA is a positive and statistically significant predictor of educational attainment and earnings in adulthood. Moreover, the coefficient estimates are large and economically important for each gender. Interesting and somewhat unexpected findings emerge for race in that, after controlling for innate ability, academic performance, and other economic and demographic variables, African Americans advance further in the formal educational system than their White counterparts. Various sensitivity tests support the stability of the core findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-386
Number of pages17
JournalEastern Economic Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 29 2015



  • Earnings
  • educational attainment
  • high school grades
  • panel data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics

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