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Digest of Education Statistics: 2011
Digest of Education Statistics: 2011

NCES 2012-001
May 2012

Chapter 5: Outcomes of Education

This chapter contains tables comparing educational attainment and workforce characteristics. The data show labor force participation and income levels of high school dropouts and high school and college graduates. Population characteristics are provided for many of the measures to allow for comparisons among various demographic groups. Tables 392 and 393 contain data from the U.S. Census Bureau on labor force participation, employment, and unemployment by educational attainment, sex, age, and race/ethnicity. Table 394 provides data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on type of occupation by educational attainment and sex. Tables 395 and 396 provide data on earnings by educational attainment and sex from the U.S. Census Bureau, while table 397 presents data on unemployment rates and salaries of bachelor's degree holders by field of study. Table 398 provides literacy scores for adults by educational attainment, employment status, and demographic characteristics. The percentages of high school seniors with various characteristics who work different numbers of hours per week are shown in table 399.

Tables 400 and 401, compiled from U.S. Census Bureau data on high school completers and dropouts, show the labor force participation and college enrollment of high school students within the year after they leave school. The tabulations also provide comparative labor force participation and unemployment rates for high school completers and dropouts. Additional information on college enrollment rates by race/ethnicity and sex has been included to help form a more complete picture of high school outcomes. Table 402 provides data on college enrollment and employment among special education students who have left secondary school. Tables 403 and 404 provide data on the employment outcomes and salaries of college graduates 1 year after graduation. Tables 405 and 406 provide data on drug use of young adults from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Table 407 provides information on life values of high school seniors and young adults.

Statistics related to outcomes of education appear in other sections of the Digest. For example, statistics on educational attainment of the entire population are in chapter 1. More detailed data on the numbers of high school and college graduates can be found in chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 3 contains trend data on the percentage of high school completers going to college. Chapter 6 includes international comparisons of employment rates by educational attainment. Additional data on earnings by educational attainment may be obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Reports, Series P-60. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a series of publications dealing with the educational characteristics of the labor force. Further information on survey methodologies can be found in Appendix A: Guide to Sources and in the publications cited in the table source notes.

Labor Force

Adults with higher levels of education generally had higher labor force participation rates than adults with less education. (People participating in the labor force are those employed or actively seeking employment.) Among people 25 to 64 years old, 86 percent of those with a bachelor's or higher degree participated in the labor force in 2010, compared with 74 percent of those who had completed only high school and 61 percent of those who had not completed high school (table 392 and figure 22). The 2010 labor force participation rates for those ages 25 to 64 who had completed only high school were higher for Hispanics (77 percent), Whites (75 percent), and Asians (75 percent) than for Blacks (70 percent) (table 392). American Indians/Alaska Natives whose highest level of attainment was high school participated in the labor force at a rate (64 percent) that was lower than the rates for White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian high school completers. Among people ages 25 to 64 with a bachelor's or higher degree in 2010, the labor force participation rate was highest for Blacks (89 percent), followed by Hispanics (87 percent), then Whites (86 percent), and then Asians and American Indians/Alaska Natives (83 percent for both groups).

Unemployment rates were generally higher for people with lower levels of educational attainment than for those with higher levels of educational attainment. (The unemployment rate is the percentage of people in the labor force who are not employed and who have made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the prior 4 weeks.) The 2010 unemployment rate for adults 25 to 64 years old who had not completed high school was 17 percent, compared with 12 percent for those who had completed high school and 5 percent for those with a bachelor's or higher degree (table 392 and figure 23). Compared with the unemployment rates for adults 25 to 64 years old, the unemployment rates for younger people tended to be higher within each level of educational attainment. For example, among 20- to 24-year-olds who had not completed high school and were not enrolled in school, the 2010 unemployment rate was 29 percent, compared with 17 percent for 25- to 64-year-olds with the same level of educational attainment (tables 392 and 393).

The relative difficulties that dropouts encounter in entering the job market are highlighted by comparing their labor force participation and employment rates with those of other youth. In October 2010, 77 percent of the 2009–10 high school completers who were not enrolled in college participated in the labor force (i.e., were either employed or looking for work), compared with 54 percent of the 2009–10 high school dropouts (tables 400 and 401 and figure 24). The percentage of 2009–10 high school completers not enrolled in college who were employed (51 percent) was also higher than the percentage of 2009–10 dropouts who were employed (31 percent).

Earnings

Adults with higher levels of education generally had higher earnings than those with less education. For both males and females, full-time year-round workers 25 years old and over who had higher levels of educational attainment generally had higher median annual earnings than did those with lower levels of educational attainment (table E, table 395, and figure 25). Among full-time year-round workers in 2010, for example, both males and females whose highest level of educational attainment was a bachelor's degree earned 59 percent more than their counterparts whose highest level of attainment was high school completion.

Among full-time year-round workers 25 years old and over, the earnings of females remained lower than the earnings of males overall, as well as by education level. For example, median 2010 earnings for full-time year-round workers with a bachelor's degree were 34 percent higher for males than for females. Among high school completers, median 2010 earnings were also 34 percent higher for males than for females.

For full-time year-round workers 25 years old and over, changes in median annual earnings in constant 2010 dollars from 1995 to 2010 varied according to highest level of educational attainment and sex. For both male and female full-time year-round workers, net percentage changes in earnings were generally more negative for those with lower levels of educational attainment than for those with higher levels of attainment. The median annual earnings in constant 2010 dollars of male workers with a bachelor's degree were not significantly different in 1995 ($64,770) than in 2010 ($63,740). In contrast, the median earnings of male workers who had completed high school decreased 5 percent from 1995 ($42,220) to 2010 ($40,060), and the median earnings of male workers who had attended some high school (but were not high school completers) decreased 7 percent from 1995 ($31,740) to 2010 ($29,440). Among female full-time year-round workers, the median annual earnings of those who had a bachelor's degree increased 3 percent from 1995 ($45,860) to 2010 ($47,440), the median earnings of those who had completed high school were not significantly different in 1995 ($29,280) than in 2010 ($29,860), and the median earnings of those who had attended some high school decreased 8 percent from 1995 ($22,640) to 2010 ($20,880).

Table E. Median annual earnings of full-time year-round workers 25 years old and over, by selected levels of educational attainment and sex: Selected years, 1995 through 2010

[In constant 2010 dollars]
Sex and
year
Some high
school, no
completion
High
school
completion
Bachelor's
degree
Males      
1995 $31,230 $41,540 $63,720
2000 31,260 42,740 70,180
2005 29,870 39,880 65,930
2010 29,440 40,060 63,740
Females      
1995 22,280 28,810 45,120
2000 22,320 31,110 50,350
2005 22,110 28,880 46,330
2010 20,880 29,860 47,440

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, Series P-60, Money Income in the United States, 1995 and 2000; and Detailed Income Tabulations from the CPS, 2005 and 2010.

In 2009, the median annual salary of bachelor's degree recipients employed full time 1 year after graduation was $37,600 in constant 2010 dollars (table 404 and figure 26). Full-time median annual salaries varied by degree field, however. In 2009, graduates employed full time 1 year after receiving bachelor's degrees in engineering had the highest median annual salary ($55,100 in constant 2010 dollars), followed by those with degrees in mathematics/computer science ($48,500) and in the health professions ($46,600). Among the lowest full-time median annual salaries were those earned by graduates with degrees in the humanities ($27,700), education ($28,500), and psychology ($29,800).

Overall, the inflation-adjusted median annual salary of graduates employed full time 1 year after receiving their bachelor's degree was 4 percent lower in 2009 than in 2001. However, the change in median annual salary from 2001 to 2009 varied by degree field, ranging from an increase of 8 percent for graduates with degrees in the health professions to a decrease of 25 percent for those with degrees in the humanities.

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