This chapter contains tables comparing educational attainment and workforce characteristics. The data show labor force status, income levels, and occupations of high school dropouts and high school and college graduates. Most of these tables are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Population characteristics are provided for many of the measures to allow for comparisons among various demographic groups. While most of the tables in this chapter focus on labor market outcomes, the chapter ends with a few tables on skills, behaviors, and attitudes.
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.
The labor force participation rate—that is, the percentage of people either employed or actively seeking employment—was generally higher for adults with higher levels of educational attainment than for those with less education. Among 25- to 64-year-old adults, 86 percent of those with a bachelor's or higher degree participated in the labor force in 2011, compared with 74 percent of those who had completed only high school and 61 percent of those who had not completed high school (table 427 and figure 22). Within each education level, the labor force participation rate also varied by race/ethnicity. For 25- to 64-year-olds who had completed only high school, the 2011 labor force participation rate was highest for Hispanics (77 percent), followed by Asians (75 percent), then Whites (74 percent), then Blacks (69 percent), and then American Indians/Alaska Natives (63 percent) (table 427). For 25- to 64-year-olds with a bachelor's or higher degree in 2011, 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).
The unemployment rate—that 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—was generally higher for people with lower levels of educational attainment than for those with more education. In 2011, the unemployment rate for 25- to 64-year-old adults who had not completed high school was 16 percent, compared with 11 percent for those who had completed high school and 5 percent for those with a bachelor's or higher degree (table 427 and figure 23). Within each education level, unemployment rates for younger people tended to be higher than the unemployment rate for 25- to 64-year-olds. For example, among 20- to 24-year-olds who had not completed high school and were not enrolled in school, the 2011 unemployment rate was 30 percent (table 428), compared with 16 percent for 25- to 64-year-olds with the same level of educational attainment (table 427).
The relative difficulties that high school dropouts encounter in entering the job market are highlighted by comparing the labor force participation and employment rates of recent high school dropouts and recent high school completers. In October 2011, about 55 percent of 2010–11 dropouts participated in the labor force (i.e., were either employed or looking for work), and 34 percent were employed (table 445 and figure 24). In contrast, the labor force participation rate was 69 percent for 2010–11 high school completers who were not enrolled in college, and their employment rate was 46 percent (table 444 and figure 24).
Median annual earnings were generally higher for adults with higher levels of educational attainment than for those with lower levels of educational attainment. Among full-time year-round workers age 25 and over, both males and females who had more education generally earned more than people of the same sex who had less education. In 2011, for example, both male and female full-time year-round workers whose highest level of educational attainment was a bachelor's degree earned 64 percent more than their counterparts whose highest level of attainment was high school completion (table E, table 438, and figure 25).
Among full-time year-round workers age 25 and over, the earnings of females were lower than the earnings of males overall, as well as by education level. For example, median 2011 earnings for full-time year-round workers with a bachelor's degree were 35 percent higher for males than for females. Among those who had only completed high school, median 2011 earnings were also 35 percent higher for males than for females.
From 1995 to 2011, net percentage changes in earnings (after adjustment for inflation) varied by highest level of educational attainment and sex. After adjusting for inflation, male full-time year-round workers age 25 and over who did not have a postsecondary degree earned less in 2011 than they did in 1995. For male full-time year-round workers who had a postsecondary degree, changes in median annual earnings from 1995 to 2011 were not significant. For males with a bachelor's degree, for example, median annual earnings in constant 2011 dollars were not significantly different in 1995 ($66,810) than in 2011 ($66,200). In contrast, the median earnings of male full-time year-round workers who had completed high school decreased 7 percent from 1995 ($43,560) to 2011 ($40,450), and the median earnings of those who had attended only some high school also decreased 7 percent from 1995 ($32,740) to 2011 ($30,420). The median annual earnings of female full-time year-round workers who had a bachelor's degree increased 4 percent from 1995 ($47,310) to 2011 ($49,110), and the median earnings of female full-time year-round workers who had completed high school were not significantly different in 1995 ($30,200) than in 2011 ($30,010). In contrast, the median earnings of female full-time year-round workers who had attended only some high school decreased 10 percent from 1995 ($23,360) to 2011 ($21,110).
|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 2011|
|[In constant 2011 dollars]|
|Sex and year||Some high school, no completion||High school completion||Bachelor's degree|
|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 2011.|
In 2009, the median annual salary of bachelor's degree recipients employed full time 1 year after graduation was $37,700 in constant 2011 dollars (table 449 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 ($56,600 in constant 2011 dollars), followed by those with degrees in the health professions ($48,200) and mathematics/computer science ($47,200), and then those with degrees in business/management ($41,900). Among the lowest full-time median annual salaries were those earned by graduates with degrees in the humanities ($30,400) and psychology ($30,800).
Overall, the inflation-adjusted median annual salary of graduates employed full time 1 year after receiving their bachelor's degree was 7 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 7 percent for graduates with degrees in the health professions to a decrease of 19 percent for those with degrees in mathematics/computer science and a decrease of 16 percent for those with degrees in the humanities. Although the overall median annual salary of graduates employed full time 1 year after graduation decreased from 2001 to 2009, it had previously increased 13 percent from 1991 to 2001. From 1991 to 2009, there was a net increase of 5 percent in the overall median salary.