Skip Navigation
Digest of Education Statistics: 2009
Digest of Education Statistics: 2009

NCES 2010-013
April 2010

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 381 through 383 contain data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on labor force participation, employment, unemployment, and type of occupation by highest level of educational attainment, sex, age, and race/ethnicity. Tables 384 and 385 provide comparisons of earnings by education level and sex. table 386 provides literacy scores for adults by education level, 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 387.

Tables 388 and 389, 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 390 provides data on college enrollment and employment among special education students who have left secondary school. Tables 391 through 393 contain data from the Recent College Graduates survey and the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study, which are conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). These tables provide data on the employment outcomes and salaries of college graduates 1 year after graduation. Tables 394 through 396 deal with drug use and 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. 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 is 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 (table 381 and figure 21). (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 2008, compared with 76 percent of those who had completed only high school. In comparison, 64 percent of those ages 25 to 64 who had not completed high school were in the labor force. The 2008 labor force participation rates for those ages 25 to 64 who had completed only high school were higher for Whites (77 percent), Hispanics (79 percent), and Asians (76 percent) than for Blacks (73 percent) (table 381). Among people ages 25 to 64 with a bachelor's or higher degree, the labor force participation rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics (86 to 87 percent) were higher than the rate for Asians (82 percent).

Unemployment rates were generally higher for people with lower levels of educational attainment than for those with higher levels of educational attainment (table 382 and figure 22). (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 2008 unemployment rate for adults (25 years old and over) who had not completed high school was 9.0 percent, compared with 5.7 percent for those who had completed high school and 2.6 percent for those with a bachelor's or higher degree. Younger people tended to have higher unemployment rates than did people 25 years old and over (table 382).

The relative difficulties that dropouts encounter in entering the job market are highlighted by comparing their labor force participation rates to those of other youth. Of the 200708 high school completers who were not in college in October 2008, 76 percent were in the civilian labor force (employed or looking for work), and 27 percent of those in the labor force were looking for work (table 388). In comparison, 200708 high school dropouts participated in the labor force at a lower rate (48 percent) in October 2008, and 40 percent of those in the labor force were looking for work (table 389).

Earnings

Among full-time year-round workers 25 years old and over, the median annual earnings of males increased from $48,810 to $52,120 in constant 2008 dollars between 1995 and 1999, but decreased overall between 1999 and 2008, resulting in 2008 earnings ($49,000) that were similar to 1995 earnings. Between 1995 and 2001, the median annual earnings of females working full-time year-round rose from $35,140 to $38,120 in constant 2008 dollars. The earnings of the female workers showed no consistent trend between 2001 and 2008 (when median earnings were $36,700), resulting in a net increase of 4 percent in the median annual earnings of females from 1995 to 2008. The earnings of females remained lower than the earnings of males overall, as well as by education level. For example, median 2008 earnings for full-time year-round workers with a bachelor's degree were 40 percent higher for males than for females (table E and table 384). Among those whose highest level of educational attainment was high school completion, median 2008 earnings were 37 percent higher for males than for females.

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 and table 384). For example, male bachelor's degree holders working full-time year-round earned 69 percent more than male high school graduates, and female bachelor's degree holders working full-time year-round earned 66 percent more than female high school graduates in 2008.

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 2008

[In constant 2008 dollars]
Sex and
year
Some high
school, no
completion
High
school
completion
Bachelor's
degree
Males      
1995 $31,340 $41,690 $63,950
2000 31,380 42,890 70,430
2005 29,970 40,020 66,170
2008 29,680 39,010 65,800
Females      
1995 22,360 28,910 45,280
2000 22,400 31,220 50,530
2005 22,190 28,980 46,490
2008 20,410 28,380 47,030

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

Top