unemployed workers. However, it is important to recognize that none of these studies examine the return to individuals who are financing their training though a program such as WIA or TAA, so it is possible that the estimated returns are higher than would be experienced by individuals participating in federally funded job training programs (this could be the case, for example, if the participants in the study represented a particularly motivated group—the ones who sought out training on their own while those sent to this training by a WIA counselor are less motivated).
The most important component of the ABE programs for our purposes is the GED program which is designed to provide individuals who did not graduate from high school (or did not graduate from high school in the United States) a certificate that is notionally equivalent to a high school diploma. There have been a number of studies examining whether the program accomplishes this goal—that is whether the return to receiving a GED is equivalent to the return from receiving a high school diploma. This research is summarized in Heckman, Humphries and Mader (2010), who show that obtaining a GED has no effect on wages once one controls for the scholastic ability of people who take the GED. Further, while GED recipients are more likely to go to college, they are unlikely to finish more than one semester. Heckman, Humphries and Mader show that while the cognitive abilities of GED recipients are similar to those of high school graduates, the GED recipients have significant noncognitive deficits relative to high school graduates, including lack of persistence, low self‐esteem and a penchant for engaging in risky behavior. They conclude that it is the differences in noncognitive skills that limits the labor market success of GED recipients.
In related work, Cunha, Heckman, Lochner and Masterov (2006) discuss the importance of previous investments in human capital and noncognitive ability in determining the success of future investments in human capital. In this paper, Cuhna et al. develop a model showing how current investments in human capital build on earlier investments. Without the human capital base built by earlier investments, current investments will yield a much lower return. Cuhna et al. go onto show why this can account for the relatively low return to job training: the skills developed in most job training programs are simply not sufficient to overcome previous deficits