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Stats in Brief October 2020 NCES 2021-056
U.S. Department of Education
A Publication of the National Center for Education Statistics at IES

For the 2009 ninth-grade cohort, what were their highest educational attainment expectations in 2016? What were their occupational and earning expectations for when they turn 30?

Ninth graders in fall of 2009 were typically 21 or 22 years old by 2016. In 2016, about 69 percent of the cohort expected to complete a postsecondary credential, including 60 percent who expected to earn a bachelor’s or higher degree. Another 7 percent did not think their education would extend past high school and 13 percent were not sure what their highest level of education would ultimately be (figure 2).


Figure 2. Percentage distribution of 2009 ninth-graders, by 2016 highest level of education expected

Figure 2. Percentage distribution of 2009 ninth-graders, by 2016 highest
level of education expected

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) Second Follow-Up.


Cohort members were also asked, “As things stand now, what is the job or occupation that you expect or plan to have at age 30?” The jobs that they reported were classified into different career fields using a standard occupational classification system (see the Technical notes for more information on this classification). The percentage reporting “don’t know” (36 percent) was twice as high as the next largest reported career field, healthcare, at 16 percent followed by business and management at 11 percent (figure 3).


Figure 3. Percentage distribution of 2009 ninth-graders, by 2016 planned job industry at age 30

Figure 3. Percentage distribution of 2009 ninth-graders, by 2016
planned job industry at age 30

NOTE: Arts and entertainment includes arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations. Education includes teaching, education, training, and library occupations. Healthcare includes healthcare practitioners and technical and healthcare support. Service includes food preparation and serving-related occupations, personal care and service, and community and social services. STEM refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and includes computer and mathematical architecture and engineering, and life/physical/social science occupations. Trades and technical includes installation, maintenance, and repair; production; transportation and material moving; farming, fishing, and forestry; and construction and extraction. Other includes legal occupations, building/grounds cleaning and maintenance, sales and related occupations, and office and administrative support occupations.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) Second Follow-Up.


Eight percent of cohort members planned to have a job in a STEM field, 7 percent in the trades or technical industry, and 5 percent planned to have a job in each of the following industries: service, education, and other industries. Four percent planned to have a job in military and protective services and 4 percent in arts and entertainment.

According to data from the Census Bureau, the actual median yearly earnings of young adults ages 25 to 34 was $40,000 in 20162 (McFarland et al. 2018). Members of the ninthgrade cohort of 2009 were asked in 2016 what they expected their yearly earnings were going to be by the time they were 30.

2 Assuming a constant inflation rate of 2.5 percent, $40,000 in 2016 will be approximately $50,000 in 2025 or 2026.

For most of the cohort, this would be in 2025 or 2026. The median expected yearly earnings were $60,000 (figure 4).


Figure 4. Median expected yearly earnings at age 30 of 2009 ninth-graders, by 2016 highest level of education expected

Figure 4. Median expected yearly earnings at age 30 of 2009 ninth-graders, by 2016 highest level of education expected

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) Second Follow-Up.


Earnings expectations varied by educational and occupational expectations. For the most part, those expecting to earn a high school diploma or less had the lowest annual earning expectations for when they were 30, with a median of $40,000. This was lower than expected earnings for cohort members who did not know how much education they would ultimately obtain, and was 57 percent of the expected earnings of those planning on obtaining postbaccalaureate degrees (whose median expected earnings at age 30 were $70,000).

Cohort expectations for annual income at age 30 had similar variation by expected career field as for educational attainment, ranging from a low of $40,000 to a high of $75,000. Those expecting to work in the service industry and education had the lowest income expectations at $40,000 and $45,000, respectively, approximately half of the salary expected by those planning to go into STEM careers ($75,000). The other career field where expectations were higher than the median was among cohort members planning to go into business and management fields where median annual earnings were expected to be $70,000 (figure 5).


Figure 5. Median expected yearly earnings at age 30 of 2009 ninth-graders, by 2016 planned job industry at age 30

Figure 5. Median expected yearly earnings at age 30 of 2009 ninth-graders, by 2016 planned job industry at age 30

NOTE: Arts and entertainment includes arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations. Education includes teaching, education, training, and library occupations. Healthcare includes healthcare practitioners and technical and healthcare support. Service includes food preparation and serving-related occupations, personal care and service, and community and social services. STEM refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and includes computer and mathematical architecture and engineering, and life/physical/social science occupations. Trades and technical includes installation, maintenance, and repair; production; transportation and material moving; farming, fishing, and forestry; and construction and extraction. Other includes legal occupations, building/grounds cleaning and maintenance, sales and related occupations, and office and administrative support occupations.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) Second Follow-Up.