Date of Award

Summer 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Kenneth I. Wolpin


Twenty-one states are increasing the requirements for a high school diploma so that all students graduate college-ready. The new graduation requirements include completion of Algebra, Geometry and Algebra II. Before this recent set of reforms, states had graduation requirements related to the number of math credits, irrespective of math course content. To quantify the potential impact of requiring Algebra, Geometry and Algebra II for high school graduation on educational attainment and math knowledge, I develop a dynamic, discrete choice model of high school attendance, math course selection and educational attainment. I estimate the parameters of the model using data from NELS:88/2000 under the old policy and simulate behavior under the new graduation requirement. Model simulations show that educational attainment at age 18 is very responsive to the policy change, but college completion by age 25 is less so. The on-time high school graduation rate falls from 84 to 59 percent, and the proportion of students opting for a GED during the four years of high school increases from 2 to 20 percent. The overall proportion of individuals who earn an advanced degree remains roughly constant, moving from 37 to 36 percent.