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Digest of Education Statistics: 2004
Digest of Education Statistics: 2004

NCES 2006-005
October 2005

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 help provide comparisons among various demographic groups. Tables 376 to 378 contain data from the U.S. Census Bureau on educational attainment and income of the labor force, and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on employment and unemployment. These tables provide information on the educational attainment of the labor force, by occupation, sex, race/ethnicity, and unemployment rates.

Tables 380 and 381 were compiled from Bureau of Labor Statistics data on high school completers and dropouts. These data 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. Tables 382 to 385 were prepared from the Recent College Graduates and Baccalaureate and Beyond surveys by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). These tables provide data on employment outcomes for college graduates. Tables 386 and 387 provide an income comparison by education level and sex for the entire population. Trends in salaries received by all college graduates also are featured in this section. The last tables in this chapter deal with literacy skills, community service, drug use, and life values.

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 are contained in Chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 3 contains trend data on the proportion of high school completers going to college. Additional data on the income of persons by educational attainment may be obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau in the Current Population Reports, Series P 60. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a series of publications dealing with the educational characteristics of the labor force. Further information on survey methodologies is in the Guide to Sources in the appendix and in the publications cited in the source notes.

Labor Force

Adults with higher levels of education were more likely to participate in the labor force (including those who were employed and those actively seeking employment) than those with less education. About 78 percent of adults, 25 years old and over with a bachelor's or higher degree, participated in the labor force in 2004 compared with 63 percent of persons who had completed only high school. In contrast, 45 percent of those 25 and older, who were not high school completers, were in the labor force (figure 22). The 2004 labor force participation rates for Blacks and Hispanics age 25 and older who had completed high school diplomas were higher than the rates for Whites with similar levels of education (table 376). The labor force participation rate for Blacks and Hispanics age 25 and over with a bachelor's or higher degree was also higher than the rates for Whites.

Persons with lower levels of educational attainment were more likely to be unemployed than those who had higher levels of educational attainment. The 2004 unemployment rate for adults (25 years old and over) who had not completed high school was 8.5 percent compared with 5.0 percent for those who had completed high school and 2.7 percent for those with a bachelor's degree or higher (figure 23). Younger people with high school diplomas tended to have higher unemployment rates than persons 25 years old and over with similar levels of education (table 378).

The relative difficulties in entering the job market for dropouts are highlighted by comparing their labor force and unemployment rates to other youth. About 54 percent of 200304 dropouts were in the labor force (employed or looking for work) in October 2004 and 40 percent of those in the labor force were looking for work (table 381 and figure 24). In comparison of the 2004 high school completers who were not in college, 77 percent were in the labor force in October 2004, and 20 percent of those in the labor force were looking for work (table 380).

One year after graduating from college in 19992000, 87 percent of individuals receiving bachelor's degrees were employed (77 percent full time and 11 percent part time), 6 percent were unemployed, and 6 percent were not in the labor force (table 383).


The median annual income of male full-time year-round workers, when adjusted for inflation, was about the same in 2003 as it was in 1994. Income for females rose between 1994 and 2001, but then declined between 2001 and 2003, for a net increase of 4 percent. Women's incomes remained lower than men's incomes, even after adjusting for level of education. The average 2003 incomes for full-time year-round workers with a bachelor's degree were $56,502 for men and $41,327 for women (table 386).