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Digest of Education Statistics: 2014
Digest of Education Statistics: 2014

NCES 2016-006
April 2016

Chapter 5: Outcomes of Education

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 adults' attitudes, skills, and participation in continuing education.

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.

Labor Force

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 2013, compared with 73 percent of those who had completed only high school and 61 percent of those who had not completed high school (table 501.10). 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 2013 labor force participation rate was highest for Hispanics (77 percent), followed by Asians (74 percent), then Whites (73 percent), then Blacks (68 percent), and then American Indians/Alaska Natives (62 percent). For 25- to 64-year-olds with a bachelor's or higher degree in 2013, the labor force participation rate was highest for Blacks (88 percent), followed by Hispanics (87 percent), then Whites (86 percent), and then Asians (83 percent). The labor force participation rate for American Indians/Alaska Natives with a bachelor's or higher degree (82 percent) was lower than the rates for Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites, but not measurably different from the rate for Asians.

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 2014, the unemployment rate for 25- to 64-year-old adults who had not completed high school was 11 percent, compared with 7 percent for those who had completed only high school and 3 percent for those with a bachelor's or higher degree (table 501.80). Within each education level, the unemployment rates for 16- to 19-year-olds and 20- to 24-year-olds 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 2014 unemployment rate was 25 percent, compared with 11 percent for 25- to 64-year-olds with the same level of educational attainment. Among adults in the 25- to 34-year-old age group, the 2014 unemployment rate was 14 percent for those who had not completed high school, 10 percent for high school completers, and 4 percent for those with a bachelor's or higher degree (table 501.80 and figure 22).

The employment to population ratio—that is, the percentage of the population that is employed—was generally higher for people with higher levels of educational attainment than for those with less education. Among 25- to 34-year-olds, for example, 84 percent of those with a bachelor's or higher degree were employed in 2014, compared with 68 percent of those who had completed only high school and 58 percent of those who had not completed high school (table 501.50 and figure 23).

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 with those of recent high school completers. In October 2013, about 43 percent of 2012–13 dropouts participated in the labor force (i.e., were either employed or looking for work), with 31 percent employed and 12 percent looking for work (table 504.20 and figure 24). In contrast, the labor force participation rate was 74 percent for 2012–13 high school completers who were not enrolled in college, with 51 percent employed and 23 percent looking for work (table 504.10 and figure 24).

Earnings

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 2013, for example, males whose highest level of educational attainment was a bachelor's degree earned 67 percent more than males whose highest level of attainment was high school completion, and females who had attained a bachelor's degree earned 65 percent more than females who had only completed high school (table E, table 502.20, 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 2013 earnings for full-time year-round workers with a bachelor's degree were 32 percent higher for males than for females. Among those who had only completed high school, median 2013 earnings were 31 percent higher for males than for females.

From 1995 to 2013, net percentage changes in earnings (after adjustment for inflation) varied by highest level of educational attainment and sex. In constant 2013 dollars, the median annual earnings of male full-time year-round workers age 25 and over who had started but not completed high school decreased 10 percent from 1995 ($33,920) to 2013 ($30,570), and the median earnings of those who had completed high school decreased 11 percent from 1995 ($45,120) to 2013 ($40,290). For males with a bachelor's degree, median annual earnings in constant 2013 dollars decreased 3 percent from 1995 ($69,210) to 2013 ($67,240). In constant 2013 dollars, the median annual earnings of female full-time year-round workers who had started but not completed high school decreased 8 percent from 1995 ($24,190) to 2013 ($22,250), and the median earnings of those who had completed high school decreased 2 percent from 1995 ($31,290) to 2013 ($30,800). For females with a bachelor's degree, median annual earnings in constant 2013 dollars increased 4 percent from 1995 ($49,000) to 2013 ($50,750).

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 2013
 
[In constant 2013 dollars]
Sex and year Some high
school, no
completion
High school
completion
Bachelor's
degree
Males      
1995 $33,920 $45,120 $69,210
2000 33,960 46,410 76,220
2005 32,440 43,310 71,610
2013 30,570 40,290 67,240
Females      
1995 24,190 31,290 49,000
2000 24,250 33,790 54,680
2005 24,010 31,360 50,310
2013 22,250 30,800 50,750
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, Series P-60, Money Income in the United States, 1995 and 2000; and Current Population Survey (CPS), 2005 and 2013 Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

In 2009, the median annual salary of bachelor's degree recipients employed full time 1 year after graduation was $39,100 in constant 2013 dollars (table 505.50 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 ($58,600 in constant 2013 dollars), followed by those with degrees in the health professions ($49,900) and mathematics/computer science ($48,900), and then those with degrees in business/management ($43,400). Among the lowest full-time median annual salaries were those earned by graduates with degrees in the humanities ($31,500) and psychology ($31,900).

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.

In 2013, 25- to 29-year-olds with a bachelor's or higher degree had median annual earnings of $45,280 (table 505.10). Median annual earnings varied by bachelor's degree field. For example, 25- to 29-year-olds with a bachelor's degree in computer engineering had median annual earnings of $74,880, while those with a bachelor's degree in theology and religious vocations had median annual earnings of $32,880.

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