NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

Differences in Postsecondary Enrollment and Employment by Socioeconomic Status

New data suggest that the socioeconomic status of high school freshmen plays a role in their future education and employment.  

The data come from the NCES High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09), which follows a nationally representative group of ninth-graders. In 2009, NCES measured the socioeconomic status (SES) of these students by collecting data on the income, occupation, and educational attainment of their parents or guardians. In 2016, NCES conducted a follow-up survey with the 2009 ninth-graders, gathering data on their educational and employment status.   

Data show that 2009 ninth-graders who were in the lowest-SES category were 20 percentage points more likely to be neither enrolled in postsecondary education nor working in 2016 than those in the highest-SES category (figure 1). These students were also 50 percentage points less likely to be enrolled in postsecondary institutions than those in the highest-SES category (figure 2).

 



 

These findings are just a glimpse into the insights on socioeconomic mobility that HSLS:09 can generate by linking data on parent and child educational attainment and employment.

Check out our recent spotlight indicator in the Condition of Education for more information on how the educational and employment outcomes of young adults varied in relation to family socioeconomic status.

 

By Joel McFarland

 

 

 

Announcing the Condition of Education 2019 Release

We are pleased to present The Condition of Education 2019, a congressionally mandated annual report summarizing the latest data on education in the United States. This report is designed to help policymakers and the public monitor educational progress. This year’s report includes 48 indicators on topics ranging from prekindergarten through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons.

In addition to the regularly updated annual indicators, this year’s spotlight indicators show how recent NCES surveys have expanded our understanding of outcomes in postsecondary education.

The first spotlight examines the variation in postsecondary enrollment patterns between young adults who were raised in high- and low-socioeconomic status (SES) families. The study draws on data from the NCES High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, which collected data on a nationally representative cohort of ninth-grade students in 2009 and has continued to survey these students as they progress through postsecondary education. The indicator finds that the percentage of 2009 ninth-graders who were enrolled in postsecondary education in 2016 was 50 percentage points larger for the highest SES students (78 percent) than for the lowest SES students (28 percent). Among the highest SES 2009 ninth-graders who had enrolled in a postsecondary institution by 2016, more than three-quarters (78 percent) first pursued a bachelor’s degree and 13 percent first pursued an associate’s degree. In contrast, the percentage of students in the lowest SES category who first pursued a bachelor’s degree (32 percent) was smaller than the percentage who first pursued an associate’s degree (42 percent). In addition, the percentage who first enrolled in a highly selective 4-year institution was larger for the highest SES students (37 percent) than for the lowest SES students (7 percent).

The complete indicator, Young Adult Educational and Employment Outcomes by Family Socioeconomic Status, contains more information about how enrollment, persistence, choice of institution (public, private nonprofit, or private for-profit and 2-year or 4-year), and employment varied by the SES of the family in which young adults were raised.

 


Among 2009 ninth-graders who had enrolled in postsecondary education by 2016, percentage distribution of students' first credential pursued at first postsecondary institution, by socioeconomic status: 2016

1 Socioeconomic status was measured by a composite score of parental education and occupations and family income in 2009.
NOTE: Postsecondary outcomes are as of February 2016, approximately 3 years after most respondents had completed high school. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09), Base Year and Second Follow-up. See Digest of Education Statistics 2018, table 302.44.


 

The second spotlight explores new data on postsecondary outcomes, including completion and transfer rates, for nontraditional undergraduate students. While the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System formerly collected outcomes data only for first-time, full-time students, a new component of the survey includes information on students who enroll part time, transfer among institutions, or leave postsecondary education temporarily but later enroll again. These expanded data are particularly important for 2-year institutions, where higher percentages of students are nontraditional. For example, the indicator finds that, among students who started at public 2-year institutions in 2009, completion rates 8 years after entry were higher among full-time students (30 percent for first-time students and 38 percent for non-first-time students) than among part-time students (16 percent for first-time students and 21 percent for non-first-time students). Also at public 2-year institutions, transfer rates 8 years after entry were higher among non-first-time students (37 percent for part-time students and 30 percent for full-time students) than among first-time students (24 percent for both full-time and part-time students).

For more findings, including information on outcomes for nontraditional students at 4-year institutions, read the complete indicator, Postsecondary Outcomes for Nontraditional Undergraduate Students.

 


Percentage distribution of students' postsecondary outcomes 8 years after beginning at 2-year institutions in 2009, by initial attendance level and status: 2017

# Rounds to zero.
1 Attendance level (first-time or non-first-time student) and attendance status (full-time or part-time student) are based on the first full term (i.e., semester or quarter) after the student entered the institution. First-time students are those who had never attended a postsecondary institution prior to their 2009–10 entry into the reporting institution.
2 Includes certificates, associate’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. Includes only those awards that were conferred by the reporting institution (i.e., the institution the student entered in 2009–10); excludes awards conferred by institutions to which the student later transferred.
3 Refers to the percentage of students who were known transfers (i.e., those who notified their initial postsecondary institution of their transfer). The actual transfer rate (including students who transferred, but did not notify their initial institution) may be higher.
4 Includes students who dropped out of the reporting institution and students who transferred to another institution without notifying the reporting institution.
NOTE: The 2009 entry cohort includes all degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who entered a degree-granting institution between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010. Student enrollment status and completion status are determined as of August 31 of the year indicated; for example, within 8 years after the student’s 2009–10 entry into the reporting institution means by August 31, 2018. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Winter 2017–18, Outcome Measures component; and IPEDS Fall 2009, Institutional Characteristics component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2018, table 326.27.


 

The Condition of Education includes an At a Glance section, which allows readers to quickly make comparisons within and across indicators, and a Highlights section, which captures key findings from each indicator. The report also contains a Reader’s Guide, a Glossary, and a Guide to Sources that provide additional background information. Each indicator provides links to the source data tables used to produce the analyses.

As new data are released throughout the year, indicators will be updated and made available on The Condition of Education website. In addition, NCES produces a wide range of reports and datasets designed to help inform policymakers and the public. For more information on our latest activities and releases, please visit our website or follow us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

 

By James L. Woodworth, NCES Commissioner