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THE EDUCATION OF AMERICAN WORKERS

Education is an investment in skills, and like all investments, it involves both costs and returns. The cost to the student of finishing high school is quite low. However, the cost to the student of attending college is higher because it includes tuition, books, fees, and the earnings a student potentially gives up either by not working at all during college or by working only part-time. However, according to a report by Kathleen Porter of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education (The Value of a College Degree, ERIC Digest, 2002, http://www.ericdigests.org/2003-3/value.htm), over an adult's working life, those with a high school degree will earn on average $1.2 million, those with an associate's degree will earn an average of $1.6 million, and those with a bachelor's degree will earn about $2.1 million. These figures put the costs of higher education in perspective. In addition, it is important to remember that while the returns from a high school or college education can be measured economically, there are invaluable social, emotional, and intellectual returns as well.

Although some returns from education accrue for the individual, others benefit society and the nation in general. Returns related to the economyspecifically the labor marketinclude better job opportunities and jobs that are less sensitive to general economic conditions. Other societal returns often attributed to higher education include a greater interest and participation in civil affairs among well-educated individuals. Porter also noted that individuals with higher educational attainment contribute more to general tax revenues, are more productive, and are less likely to rely on governmental financial support, all important benefits for society as a whole.

A BETTER-EDUCATED NATION

American workers are better educated than ever before. Before the end of World War II (19391945), with the exception of doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and a few other professionals, only a small number of people earned higher degrees for the purpose of preparing for a career or vocation. Most colleges were private, four-year schools with limited enrollments. Therefore, a person who wanted training for a job or an occupation usually went to a vocational high school or became an apprentice, learning a trade from a highly skilled mentor.

The G.I. Bill of Rights, introduced after World War II, changed the way Americans viewed higher education. The soldiers, sailors, and pilots returning to civilian life wanted to make better lives for themselves, and the U.S. government was willing to pay to give them the chance. Federal money paid to America's returning veterans opened up and enlarged trade and vocational schools and filled college classrooms across the nation.

Approximately 2.2 million veterans, or about one-third of all American veterans returning from World War II, enrolled in colleges and universities under the G.I. Bill between 1944 and 1960, according to Jennifer Ann Adams of Pennsylvania State University in The G.I. Bill and the Changing Place of U.S. Higher Education after World War II (November 18, 2000, http://www.personal.psu.edu/jaa144/ashe2000.PDF). This influx of students represented a massive democratization of education. Existing colleges and universities expanded, and nearly 1,700 new institutions were founded across the nation during the fifty years following the passage of the G.I. Bill. Most of these schools were two-year colleges, providing a new option in higher education for many people. In the postwar period, American colleges, universities, and junior colleges graduated increasing numbers of engineers, accountants, scientists, business people, technicians, nurses, and others with similar professional and technical careers.

How Well Educated Are Americans?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007 (September 2007), significant increases were registered during the twentieth century in the number of years of school completed by students. The median number of school years completed (half of the students completed more, and half completed less) by American students increased from 8.4 years in 1930 to 13 years by 1993. (The NCES no longer publishes data on median number of years completed.) In 1930 fewer than one in five Americans aged twenty-five and over (19.1%) were high school graduates, and only 3.9% held a bachelor's degree or higher. (See Table 4.1.) Since that time these proportions have steadily increased. By March 1970 over half (55.2%) of adults aged twenty-five and over had completed high school, and 11% had a bachelor's degree. By 1990 more than three-quarters (77.6%) of adults had a high school diploma, and over one in five (21.3%) had a bachelor's degree. By March 2007, 85.7% of all adults aged twenty-five and over had completed high school, and over a quarter (28.7%) had a bachelor's degree or higher. These percentages were the highest recorded since statistics began to be compiled in 1910.

Who Is in College?

In 1970, 8.6 million high school graduates were enrolled in degree-granting institutions including colleges and universities. By 2006, 17.7 million people were enrolled in degree-granting institutions. Projections by the NCES in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007 estimate that in 2011, enrollment will surpass 19.1 million, and by 2016, 20.4 million students will be enrolled in college, graduate, or professional school. (See Table 4.2.)

GENDER. Not only have enrollment numbers burgeoned, but the demographic characteristics of studentsincluding gender, age, and minority statushave shifted. Since the 1970s a dramatic change has been seen in the gender makeup of fall enrollees at degree-granting institutions. In 1970 male students predominated on college campuses; 5 million of the 8.6 million (58.8%) fall enrollees that year were males. A decade later females outnumbered males on college campuses; 6.2 million of the 12.1 million enrollees (51.4%) were females that year. This trend of increasing proportions of female enrollment continued through subsequent years. By 2000, 8.6 million of 15.3 million (56.1%) college or graduate students were female. In 2006, 10.2 million college or graduate students were female, compared with 7.5 million males; females made up 57.7% of enrollment. This trend is expected to continue. The NCES projects that in 2016, 12.2 million of 20.4 million enrolled students, or 59.8%, will be females. (See Table 4.2.)

Increased female enrollment has contributed to over-all growth in college enrollment. From 1990 through 2006 male enrollment increased from 6.3 million to 7.5 million, an 18.9% increase, while the number of females rose from 7.5 million to 10.2 million, a 35.4% increase. Between 2006 and 2016 female enrollment is projected to rise from 10.2 million to 12.2 million, an increase of 19.8%, while male enrollment is expected to rise from 7.5 million to 8.2 million, an increase of only 10.1%. (See Table 4.2.)

OLDER STUDENTS. Since 1970 there has been a significant increase in the percentage of older students enrolled in college. In 1970, 1.1 million students were between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-nine, 487,000 were between the ages of thirty and thirty-four, and 823,000 were aged thirty-five or older. (See Table 4.2.) These nontraditional students made up 27.8% of the 8.6 million students enrolled in degree-granting institutions that year. By 2006, 2.5 million students were between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-nine, 1.3 million were between thirty and thirty-four years old, and nearly 3.1 million were aged thirty-five and older. By that year, these older students made up 38.9% of the student bodies.

The increased enrollment of older students may reflect the higher education levels required by many occupations and the return to school of those who had previously left school to work. Historically, older students generally begin or return to degree programs in order to handle involuntary career transitions or to upgrade their skills in order to advance at their current jobs or prepare to seek new employment.

MINORITY ENROLLMENT. The enrollment of minority students (African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Alaskan Natives) in higher education has been rising steadily. In 1970, of the 1.4 million students who had recently completed high school and then enrolled in degree-granting institutions, 1.3 million (89.7%) were non-Hispanic whites. By 2006 nearly 1.8 million recent high school completers had enrolled in college, and only 1.2 million of them (69.7%) were non-Hispanic whites. In that year, there were 177,000 African-American recent high school completers who were enrolled in college (10%) and 222,000 Hispanic recent high school completers who were enrolled in college (12.5%). Probably most of the remaining 7.8% of the recent high school completers enrolled in college were Asians. (See Table 4.3.)

Although non-Hispanic white students still comprise a large majority of college students (11.5 million of 17.5 million students in 2005), the trend is toward more racial and ethnic diversity on campuses. The NCES reported in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007 (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_216.asp) that in 1976 white students made up 82.6% of higher education enrollment. In 2005, of the 17.5 million people attending college, 65.7% were non-Hispanic whites, 12.7% were African-Americans, 10.8% were Hispanics, 6.5% were Asians/Pacific Islanders, and 1% were Native Americans.

TABLE 4.1
Percentage of persons aged 25 years and over by race/ethnicity, years of school completed, and sex, selected years, 19102007
Total Whitea Blacka Hispanic
Sex, age, and year Less than 5 years of elementary school High school completion or higherb Bachelor's or higher degreec Less than 5 years of elementary school High school completion or higherb Bachelor's or higher degreec Less than 5 years of elementary school High school completion or higherb Bachelor's or higher degreec Less than 5 years of elementary school High school completion or higherb Bachelor's or higher degreec
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Total, 25 and over
1910d 23.8 13.5 2.7
1920d 22.0 16.4 3.3
1930d 17.5 19.1 3.9
April 1940 13.7 24.5 4.6 10.9 26.1 4.9 41.8 7.7 1.3
April 1950 11.1 34.3 6.2 8.9 36.4 6.6 32.6 13.7 2.2
April 1960 8.3 41.1 7.7 6.7 43.2 8.1 23.5 21.7 3.5
March 1970 5.3 55.2 11.0 4.2 57.4 11.6 14.7 36.1 6.1
March 1980 3.4 68.6 17.0 1.9 71.9 18.4 9.1 51.4 7.9 15.8 44.5 7.6
March 1990 2.4 77.6 21.3 1.1 81.4 23.1 5.1 66.2 11.3 12.3 50.8 9.2
March 2000 1.6 84.1 25.6 0.5 88.4 28.1 1.6 78.9 16.6 8.7 57.0 10.6
March 2005 1.6 85.2 27.6 0.5 90.1 30.5 1.5 81.5 17.7 7.9 58.5 12.0
March 2006 1.5 85.5 28.0 0.4 90.5 31.0 1.5 81.2 18.6 7.6 59.3 12.4
March 2007 1.5 85.7 28.7 0.4 90.6 31.8 1.2 82.8 18.7 6.9 60.3 12.7
Males, 25 and over
April 1940 15.1 22.7 5.5 12.0 24.2 5.9 46.2 6.9 1.4
April 1950 12.2 32.6 7.3 9.8 34.6 7.9 36.9 12.6 2.1
April 1960 9.4 39.5 9.7 7.4 41.6 10.3 27.7 20.0 3.5
March 1970 5.9 55.0 14.1 4.5 57.2 15.0 17.9 35.4 6.8
March 1980 3.6 69.2 20.9 2.0 72.4 22.8 11.3 51.2 7.7 16.5 44.9 9.2
March 1990 2.7 77.7 24.4 1.3 81.6 26.7 6.4 65.8 11.9 12.9 50.3 9.8
March 2000 1.6 84.2 27.8 0.6 88.5 30.8 2.1 79.1 16.4 8.2 56.6 10.7
March 2005 1.7 84.9 28.9 0.5 89.9 32.3 1.7 81.4 16.1 8.0 58.0 11.8
March 2006 1.6 85.0 29.2 0.4 90.2 32.8 1.7 80.7 17.5 7.8 58.5 11.9
March 2007 1.6 85.0 29.5 0.4 90.2 33.2 1.3 82.5 18.1 7.3 58.2 11.8
Females, 25 and over
April 1940 12.4 26.3 3.8 9.8 28.1 4.0 37.5 8.4 1.2
April 1950 10.0 36.0 5.2 8.1 38.2 5.4 28.6 14.7 2.4
April 1960 7.4 42.5 5.8 6.0 44.7 6.0 19.7 23.1 3.6
March 1970 4.7 55.4 8.2 3.9 57.7 8.6 11.9 36.6 5.6
March 1980 3.2 68.1 13.6 1.8 71.5 14.4 7.4 51.5 8.1 15.3 44.2 6.2
March 1990 2.2 77.5 18.4 1.0 81.3 19.8 4.0 66.5 10.8 11.7 51.3 8.7
March 2000 1.5 84.0 23.6 0.4 88.4 25.5 1.1 78.7 16.8 9.3 57.5 10.6
March 2005 1.5 85.4 26.5 0.4 90.3 28.9 1.3 81.5 18.9 7.8 58.9 12.1
March 2006 1.5 85.9 26.9 0.4 90.8 29.3 1.3 81.5 19.5 7.4 60.1 12.9
March 2007 1.4 86.4 28.0 0.4 91.0 30.6 1.1 83.0 19.2 6.6 62.5 13.7
TABLE 4.1
Percentage of persons aged 25 years and over by race/ethnicity, years of school completed, and sex, selected years, 19102007
Not available.
#Rounds to zero.
a Includes persons of Hispanic ethnicity for years prior to 1980.
b Data for years prior to 1993 are for persons with 4 or more years of high school. Data for later years are for high school completersi.e., those persons who graduated from high school with a diploma, as well as those who completed high school through equivalency programs.
c Data for years prior to 1993 are for persons with 4 or more years of college.
d Estimates based on Census Bureau retrojection of 1940 census data on education by age.
SOURCE: Adapted from Table 8. Percentage of Persons Age 25 and Over and 25 to 29, by Race/Ethnicity, Years of School Completed, and Sex: Selected Years, 1910 through 2007, in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, September 2007, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_008.asp (accessed February 11, 2008)
TABLE 4.2
Total fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions by sex, age, and attendance status, selected years, 19702016

[In thousands]
Projected
1970 1980 1990 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003* 2004 2005* 2006* 2011 2016
Sex, age, and attendance status 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Males and females 8,581 12,097 13,819 14,262 15,312 15,928 16,612 16,911 17,272 17,487 17,672 19,105 20,442
14 to 17 years old 259 247 177 148 145 133 202 151 200 199 172 176 190
20 and 21 years old 1,880 2,424 2,761 2,705 3,045 3,408 3,366 3,473 3,651 3,778 3,855 4,294 4,299
22 to 24 years old 1,457 1,989 2,144 2,411 2,617 2,760 2,932 3,482 3,036 3,072 3,060 3,364 3,715
25 to 29 years old 1,074 1,871 1,982 2,120 1,960 2,014 2,102 2,106 2,386 2,384 2,452 2,729 3,168
30 to 34 years old 487 1,243 1,322 1,236 1,265 1,290 1,300 1,368 1,329 1,354 1,331 1,501 1,741
35 years old and over 823 1,421 2,484 2,747 2,749 2,727 3,139 2,852 3,092 3,090 3,092 3,046 3,319
Males 5,044 5,874 6,284 6,343 6,722 6,961 7,202 7,260 7,387 7,456 7,470 7,967 8,222
14 to 17 years old 130 99 87 61 63 54 82 60 78 78 80 80 82
18 and 19 years old 1,349 1,375 1,421 1,338 1,583 1,629 1,616 1,558 1,551 1,592 1,626 1,727 1,687
20 and 21 years old 1,095 1,259 1,368 1,282 1,382 1,591 1,562 1,492 1,743 1,778 1,792 1,966 1,919
22 to 24 years old 964 1,064 1,107 1,153 1,293 1,312 1,342 1,605 1,380 1,355 1,330 1,428 1,516
25 to 29 years old 783 993 940 962 862 905 890 930 1,045 978 989 1,082 1,198
30 to 34 years old 308 576 537 561 527 510 547 592 518 545 530 589 660
35 years old and over 415 507 824 986 1,012 961 1,164 1,025 1,073 1,130 1,122 1,095 1,161
Females 3,537 6,223 7,535 7,919 8,591 8,967 9,410 9,651 9,885 10,032 10,202 11,139 12,220
14 to 17 years old 129 148 90 87 82 79 121 91 122 121 91 96 108
18 and 19 years old 1,250 1,526 1,529 1,557 1,948 1,966 1,955 1,922 2,027 2,018 2,084 2,269 2,323
20 and 21 years old 786 1,165 1,392 1,424 1,663 1,817 1,804 1,981 1,908 2,000 2,064 2,328 2,380
22 to 24 years old 493 925 1,037 1,258 1,324 1,448 1,590 1,877 1,657 1,717 1,730 1,936 2,199
25 to 29 years old 291 878 1,043 1,159 1,099 1,110 1,212 1,177 1,341 1,406 1,463 1,646 1,970
30 to 34 years old 179 667 784 675 738 780 753 776 812 809 801 912 1,081
35 years old and over 409 914 1,659 1,760 1,736 1,767 1,976 1,827 2,018 1,960 1,970 1,951 2,159
Full-time 5,816 7,098 7,821 8,129 9,010 9,448 9,946 10,326 10,610 10,797 10,982 12,222 13,325
14 to 17 years old 242 223 144 123 125 122 161 121 165 131 107 112 125
18 and 19 years old 2,406 2,669 2,548 2,387 2,932 2,929 2,942 2,953 3,028 3,037 3,126 3,401 3,469
20 and 21 years old 1,647 2,075 2,151 2,109 2,401 2,662 2,759 2,767 2,911 3,030 3,099 3,495 3,567
22 to 24 years old 881 1,121 1,350 1,517 1,653 1,757 1,922 2,144 2,074 2,097 2,098 2,357 2,679
25 to 29 years old 407 577 770 908 878 883 1,013 1,072 1,131 1,136 1,179 1,360 1,676
30 to 34 years old 100 251 387 430 422 494 465 512 490 549 545 639 790
35 years old and over 134 182 471 653 599 602 684 758 812 818 828 858 1,019
Males 3,505 3,689 3,808 3,807 4,111 4,300 4,501 4,638 4,739 4,803 4,836 5,231 5,377
14 to 17 years old 124 87 71 54 51 43 65 50 63 36 43 43 44
18 and 19 years old 1,265 1,270 1,230 1,091 1,250 1,329 1,327 1,307 1,313 1,357 1,387 1,478 1,452
20 and 21 years old 990 1,109 1,055 999 1,106 1,249 1,275 1,218 1,385 1,460 1,473 1,624 1,595
22 to 24 years old 650 665 742 789 839 854 936 1,041 960 951 935 1,012 1,083
25 to 29 years old 327 360 401 454 415 397 467 503 509 439 445 494 558
30 to 34 years old 72 124 156 183 195 216 183 242 201 238 233 262 300
35 years old and over 75 74 152 238 256 212 247 277 310 321 320 318 346
TABLE 4.2
Total fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions by sex, age, and attendance status, selected years, 19702016

[In thousands]
Projected
1970 1980 1990 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003* 2004 2005* 2006* 2011 2016
Sex, age, and attendance status 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
*Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
Note: Distributions by age are estimates based on samples of the civilian noninstitutional population from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. Data through 1995 are for institutions of higher education, while later data are for degree-granting institutions. Degree-granting institutions grant associate?s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The degree-granting classification is very similar to the earlier higher education classification, but it includes more 2-year colleges and excludes a few higher education institutions that did not grant degrees. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: Table 181. Total Fall Enrollment in Degree-Granting Institutions, by Sex, Age, and Attendance Status: Selected Years, 1970 through 2016, in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, August 2007, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_181.asp (accessed February 11, 2008)
Females 2,311 3,409 4,013 4,321 4,899 5,148 5,445 5,688 5,871 5,994 6,146 6,991 7,948
14 to 17 years old 117 136 73 69 74 78 96 71 103 94 64 69 80
18 and 19 years old 1,140 1,399 1,318 1,296 1,682 1,600 1,615 1,646 1,716 1,680 1,739 1,923 2,017
20 and 21 years old 657 966 1,096 1,111 1,296 1,413 1,484 1,549 1,526 1,569 1,626 1,871 1,973
22 to 24 years old 231 456 608 729 814 903 985 1,103 1,113 1,146 1,164 1,345 1,596
25 to 29 years old 80 217 369 455 463 486 546 569 622 697 733 866 1,118
30 to 34 years old 28 127 231 247 227 277 282 270 289 311 312 377 491
35 years old and over 59 108 319 415 343 390 437 481 502 497 508 540 673
Part-time 2,765 4,999 5,998 6,133 6,303 6,480 6,665 6,585 6,662 6,690 6,689 6,883 7,117
14 to 17 years old 17 38 32 25 20 11 41 30 35 68 65 64 65
18 and 19 years old 194 418 402 507 599 666 628 526 549 573 584 595 542
20 and 21 years old 233 441 610 596 644 746 607 706 741 748 756 799 732
22 to 24 years old 576 844 794 894 964 1,003 1,010 1,338 963 976 962 1,008 1,036
25 to 29 years old 668 1,209 1,213 1,212 1,083 1,132 1,088 1,034 1,255 1,248 1,273 1,369 1,493
30 to 34 years old 388 905 935 805 843 796 835 856 839 805 787 862 950
35 years old and over 689 1,145 2,012 2,093 2,150 2,126 2,456 2,094 2,280 2,272 2,264 2,187 2,301
Males 1,540 2,185 2,476 2,535 2,611 2,661 2,701 2,622 2,648 2,653 2,634 2,736 2,845
14 to 17 years old 5 17 16 7 11 11 17 10 15 41 38 37 37
18 and 19 years old 84 202 191 246 333 300 288 250 239 235 239 249 235
20 and 21 years old 105 201 313 283 276 342 287 274 358 318 319 342 324
22 to 24 years old 314 392 365 365 454 458 405 564 419 405 396 416 433
25 to 29 years old 456 594 539 508 447 508 423 427 536 539 544 588 640
30 to 34 years old 236 397 381 378 332 294 364 350 317 306 298 327 360
35 years old and over 340 382 672 748 757 749 917 748 764 809 802 777 815
Females 1,225 2,814 3,521 3,598 3,692 3,820 3,964 3,963 4,014 4,038 4,056 4,148 4,272
14 to 17 years old 12 20 17 18 9 1 24 20 19 27 27 27 27
18 and 19 years old 110 215 211 261 266 366 340 276 311 338 344 346 306
20 and 21 years old 128 240 297 313 368 404 320 433 382 430 437 457 407
22 to 24 years old 262 452 429 529 510 545 605 774 543 571 566 592 603
25 to 29 years old 212 616 674 704 636 624 666 608 720 709 729 781 852
30 to 34 years old 151 507 554 427 511 502 471 507 523 499 489 535 590
35 years old and over 349 762 1,340 1,345 1,393 1,377 1,539 1,346 1,516 1,464 1,462 1,411 1,486
TABLE 4.3
College enrollment and enrollment rates of recent high school completers, by race/ethnicity, selected years, 19602006

[Numbers in thousands]
Enrolled in collegeb
Hispanicc
Percent
Number of high school completersa Total White Blackc
Year Total White Blackc Hispanicc Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Annual 3-year moving average
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Not available.
a Individuals ages 16 to 24 who graduated from high school or completed a GED during the preceding 12 months.
b Enrollment in college as of October of each year for individuals ages 16 to 24 who completed high school during the preceding 12 months.
c Due to the small sample size, data are subject to relatively large sampling errors.
d White and black data exclude persons identifying themselves as multiracial.
Note: High school completion data in this table differ from figures appearing in other tables because of varying survey procedures and coverage. High school completers include GED recipients. Moving averages are used to produce more stable estimates. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: Adapted from Table 192. College Enrollment and Enrollment Rates of Recent High School Completers, by Race/Ethnicity: 1960 through 2006,? in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, September 2007, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_192.asp (accessed February 11, 2008)
1960 1,679 1,565 758 45.1 717 45.8
1970 2,758 2,461 1,427 51.7 1,280 52.0
1980 3,088 2,554 350 130 1,523 49.3 1,273 49.8 149 42.7 68 52.3 49.8
1990 2,362 1,819 331 121 1,420 60.1 1,147 63.0 155 46.8 52 42.7 51.7
2000 2,756 1,938 393 300 1,745 63.3 1,272 65.7 216 54.9 159 52.9 49.0
2005d 2,675 1,799 345 390 1,834 68.6 1,317 73.2 192 55.7 211 54.0 57.9
2006d 2,692 1,805 318 382 1,776 66.0 1,237 68.5 177 55.5 222 57.9

NCES statistics further reveal that enrollment of minority students increased at a faster pace than the enrollment of non-Hispanic white students between 1976 and 2005. The number of non-Hispanic white students rose from 9.1 million in 1976 to 11.5 million in 2005, an increase of 26.7%. The number of African-American students rose from 1 million in 1976 to 2.2 million in 2005, an increase of an astounding 114.3%. Other minority groups increased their enrollment by even higher proportions. In 1976, 76,000 Native Americans were enrolled in college; by 2005 that number had risen to 176,000, an increase of 131.6%. In 1976, 383,000 Hispanics were enrolled in college; by 2005 that number had risen to 1.9 million, an increase of 391.4%. The number of Asian/Pacific Islander students increased from 197,000 in 1976 to 1.1 million in 2005, an increase of 475.6%.

Types of Degrees

Students can earn a variety of vocational certifications and college degrees in institutions for higher education. Associate degrees are usually awarded by junior colleges or community colleges after about two years of course work. Private institutions, as well as government-funded community and junior colleges, award vocational degrees. These degrees prepare people for specific jobs, such as court reporter, legal assistant, or computer programmer. Bachelor's degrees usually take a minimum of four years to complete, and typically include a broader liberal arts education in addition to training for a particular career. Private and public universities also award advanced master's, doctoral, or professional (doctor or lawyer) degrees. These advanced degrees prepare students to enter a specific profession.

HOW MANY? At the end of the 200506 school year, according to the NCES in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007 (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_266.asp), a total of 713,066 associate degrees (557,134 from public institutions and 155,932 from private institutions) and nearly 1.5 million bachelor's degrees (955,369 from public institutions and 529,873 from private institutions) were awarded. In addition, 594,065 master's degrees, 87,655 first professional degrees, and 56,067 doctoral degrees were awarded.

Just as women have increased their enrollment in college, they have also increased as a proportion of those receiving degrees. In 197677, 494,424 of 917,900 bachelor's degrees conferred (53.9%) were awarded to males. By 200506 only 630,600 of nearly 1.5 million degrees conferred (42.5%) were awarded to males. (See Table 4.4.) In Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, the NCES further reported that while six out of ten master's degrees awarded in 200506 were awarded to women (356,169 of 594,065 master's degrees awarded), slightly more men than women received first professional degrees (44,038 males and 43,617 females) and doctoral degrees (28,634 males and 27,433 females), although women were closing the gap.

Despite their increasing enrollment in higher education, African-American and Hispanic students were under-represented in attaining four-year college degrees. According to NCES data released in Digest of Education Statistics,

TABLE 4.4
Bachelor's degrees conferred by race/ethnicity and sex of student, selected years, 197677 through 200506
Number of degrees conferred Percentage distribution of degrees conferred
Year and sex Total White Black Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander American Indian/Alaska Native Non-resident alien Total White Black Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander American Indian/Alaska Native Non-resident alien
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
a Excludes 1,121 males and 528 females whose racial/ethnic group was not available.
b Excludes 258 males and 82 females whose racial/ethnic group was not available.
c Data have been revised from previously published figures.
Note: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. For 1989?90 and later years, reported racial/ethnic distributions of students by level of degree, field of degree, and sex were used to estimate race/ethnicity for students whose race/ethnicity was not reported. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: Adapted from ?Table 274. Bachelor's Degrees Conferred by Degree-Granting Institutions, by Race/Ethnicity and Sex of Student: Selected Years, 1976?77 through 2005?06,? in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, June 2007, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_274.asp (accessed February 11, 2008)
Total
197677a 917,900 807,688 58,636 18,743 13,793 3,326 15,714 100.0 88.0 6.4 2.0 1.5 0.4 1.7
198081b 934,800 807,319 60,673 21,832 18,794 3,593 22,589 100.0 86.4 6.5 2.3 2.0 0.4 2.4
199091 1,094,538 914,093 66,375 37,342 42,529 4,583 29,616 100.0 83.5 6.1 3.4 3.9 0.4 2.7
199596 1,164,792 905,846 91,496 58,351 64,433 6,976 37,690 100.0 77.8 7.9 5.0 5.5 0.6 3.2
200001 1,244,171 927,357 111,307 77,745 78,902 9,049 39,811 100.0 74.5 8.9 6.2 6.3 0.7 3.2
200506 1,485,242 1,075,561 142,420 107,588 102,376 10,940 46,357 100.0 72.4 9.6 7.2 6.9 0.7 3.1
Males
197677a 494,424 438,161 25,147 10,318 7,638 1,804 11,356 100.0 88.6 5.1 2.1 1.5 0.4 2.3
198081b 469,625 406,173 24,511 10,810 10,107 1,700 16,324 100.0 86.5 5.2 2.3 2.2 0.4 3.5
199091 504,045 421,290 24,800 16,598 21,203 1,938 18,216 100.0 83.6 4.9 3.3 4.2 0.4 3.6
199596 522,454 409,565 32,974 25,029 30,669 2,885 21,332 100.0 78.4 6.3 4.8 5.9 0.6 4.1
200001 531,840 401,780 38,103 31,368 35,865 3,700 21,024 100.0 75.5 7.2 5.9 6.7 0.7 4.0
200506 630,600 467,467 48,079 41,814 45,809 4,203 23,228 100.0 74.1 7.6 6.6 7.3 0.7 3.7
Females
197677a 423,476 369,527 33,489 8,425 6,155 1,522 4,358 100.0 87.3 7.9 2.0 1.5 0.4 1.0
198081b 465,175 401,146 36,162 11,022 8,687 1,893 6,265 100.0 86.2 7.8 2.4 1.9 0.4 1.3
199091 590,493 492,803 41,575 20,744 21,326 2,645 11,400 100.0 83.5 7.0 3.5 3.6 0.4 1.9
199596 642,338 496,281 58,522 33,322 33,764 4,091 16,358 100.0 77.3 9.1 5.2 5.3 0.6 2.5
200001 712,331 525,577 73,204 46,377 43,037 5,349 18,787 100.0 73.8 10.3 6.5 6.0 0.8 2.6
200506 854,642 608,094 94,341 65,774 56,567 6,737 23,129 100.0 71.2 11.0 7.7 6.6 0.8 2.7

2007, in the 200506 school year only 9.6% of all bachelor's degrees were awarded to African-Americans and only 7.2% were awarded to Hispanics. These proportions were lower than the proportions of minority students among those who had recently completed high school and enrolled in college, indicating that African-American and Hispanic students were more likely to drop out of college than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. (See Table 4.4.) Similarly, minorities were underrepresented at the master's, doctoral, and first-professional degree levels.

According to the NCES, of the nearly 1.5 million bachelor's degrees conferred during the 200506 school year, by far the largest number, 318,042 (21.4%), were awarded for business; in addition, 161,485 (10.9%) were awarded for social sciences and history, and 107,238 (7.2%) were for education. Computer and information sciences accounted for 47,480 bachelor's degrees (3.2%), down from a high of 59,488 awarded in 200304. More than 55,000 bachelor's degrees (3.7%) were awarded for English language and literature, 88,134 (5.9%) were awarded in psychology, and 91,973 (6.2%) were awarded in the health professions and related clinical sciences. (See http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_261.asp for historical data on numbers of degrees conferred by discipline.)

LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION

Data gathered by the NCES show that adults with higher levels of education are more likely to participate in the labor force than those with less education. As reported in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, about 85.9% of adults with a bachelor's degree between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-four participated in the labor force in 2006, compared with 76.5% of high school graduates who had not gone on to college and just 63.8% of those who had not completed high school. (See Table 4.5.)

The labor force participation rate varied by gender and race/ethnicity. Nine out of ten (91.8%) males ages twenty-five to sixty-four who had earned a bachelor's degree or higher participated in the labor force, compared with only about eight out of every ten (80.2%) females. Only half (49.1%) of females who had not completed high school worked, compared with 76.9% of males. Two-thirds (68.3%) of females who had completed high school worked, compared with 84.5% of males. These figures represent the greater likelihood that women will stay home to care for children or elderly relatives, regardless of educational attainment, although women with lower levels of education are more likely to remain out of the labor force than are women with more education. (See Table 4.5.)

African-Americans with a college degree were more likely to participate in the labor force (87.9%) than non-Hispanic whites (86.2%), Hispanics (85.6%), or Asians (81.8%) with college degrees in 2006. However, among high school graduates, African-Americans were least likely to be participating in the labor force (73.8%), compared with Asians (74%), non-Hispanic whites (76.8%), and Hispanics (78.9%). (See Table 4.5.)

As might be expected, NCES data also reveal that people with lower levels of education are more likely to be unemployed than those with higher levels of education. Digest of Education Statistics, 2007 reveals that the unemployment rate for adults aged twenty-five and older who had not completed high school was 6.8% in 2006. In comparison, only 4.3% of those who had completed high school were unemployed, as were 2% of those who had attained a bachelor's degree or higher. (See Table 4.6.) Unemployment was a bigger problem among less-educated African-Americans twenty-five years of age or older than it was for those in other racial or ethnic groups. As Table 4.6 also shows, African-American adults aged twenty-five and older in 2006 who had not completed high school had the highest percentage of unemployment (13%), compared with non-Hispanic whites (6.5%), Hispanics (5.5%), and Asians (3.8%).

HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUTS

High school dropouts have significant difficulties successfully entering the job market. Without prior job experience or specialized training, dropouts often have difficulty finding jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in College Enrollment and Work Activity of 2006 High School Graduates (April 26, 2007, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/hsgec.pdf), between October 2005 and October 2006 about 444,000 high school students dropped out of school. Only slightly more than half (51.4%) of these youth were in the labor force, meaning they were either employed or they were looking for work, compared with three-quarters (76.4%) of high school graduates who were not enrolled in college. These recent dropouts had an unemployment rate of 23.1%.

Labor force participation rates among high school dropouts varies by gender and race/ethnicity. In 2006 male high school dropouts were more likely than female dropouts to be in the labor force (57.5% and 46.5%, respectively). One reason why the labor force participation rate might be so much lower among female dropouts is that often girls leave high school because they are pregnant; these girls may remain out of the labor force to take care of their infants. In addition, the unemployment rate among male dropouts (19.4%) was lower than among female dropouts (30.6%). (See Table 4.7.)

In 2005, the latest year for which complete data on race and ethnicity were available from the BLS, Hispanic students who had dropped out of high school were most likely to be participating in the labor force (64.3%), followed by non-Hispanic whites (60.3%), and African-Americans (42.5%). (See Table 4.7.)

TABLE 4.5
Labor force participation rates and employment to population ratios of persons 16 to 64 years old, by highest level of education, age, sex, and race/ethnicity, 2006
Labor force participation ratea Employment to population ratiob
College College
Age, sex, and race/ethnicity Total Less than high school completionc High school completion Some college, no degree Associate's degree Bachelors or higher degree Total Less than high school completion High school completion Some college, no degree Associate's degree Bachelors or higher degree
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Reporting standards not met.
a Percentage of the civilian population who are employed or seeking employment.
b Number of persons employed as a percentage of the civilian population.
c Includes persons reporting no school years completed.
d Excludes persons enrolled in school.
Note: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: Table 368. Labor Force Participation Rates and Employment to Population Ratios of Persons 16 to 64 Years Old, by Highest Level of Education, Age, Sex, and Race/Ethnicity: 2006, in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, August 2007, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_368.asp (accessed February 11, 2008)
16 to 19 years oldd 43.7 35.6 62.8 58.2 36.9 29.4 53.0 53.5
Male 43.7 35.8 65.9 55.9 36.3 29.1 54.7 50.6
Female 43.7 35.4 59.6 59.9 37.6 29.7 51.2 55.6
White 48.9 41.0 67.2 61.5 42.6 35.0 58.5 57.2
Black 33.6 25.9 54.3 47.9 23.5 17.2 37.2 41.1
Hispanic 38.3 29.9 61.8 57.8 32.2 24.4 53.2 51.8
Asian 24.6 17.6 32.5 38.9 21.3 15.1 26.4 35.7
20 to 24 years oldd 74.6 66.2 78.5 70.1 83.7 83.0 68.5 56.7 70.2 65.9 79.4 78.8
Male 79.6 79.7 86.0 71.4 86.2 84.5 72.7 69.9 76.9 66.9 80.6 79.7
Female 69.5 48.8 69.1 68.9 81.6 81.9 64.2 39.7 62.0 65.1 78.4 78.2
White 77.0 66.6 81.0 71.6 87.2 84.5 71.8 56.3 73.6 68.0 83.8 80.5
Black 68.7 54.2 71.9 67.8 74.0 84.6 57.4 38.2 58.2 60.2 63.5 77.4
Hispanic 74.4 71.0 78.3 71.6 79.1 81.1 69.0 64.4 72.3 67.8 75.6 77.8
Asian 58.7 47.8 66.0 51.1 64.0 68.5 55.3 42.7 62.4 48.3 59.6 65.0
25 to 64 years old 79.1 63.8 76.5 79.8 83.5 85.9 76.2 59.4 73.1 76.7 81.0 84.1
Male 86.5 76.9 84.5 86.5 89.1 91.8 83.4 72.1 80.8 83.5 86.5 90.0
Female 71.9 49.1 68.3 73.8 79.2 80.2 69.2 45.0 65.3 70.6 76.7 78.5
White 80.1 59.5 76.8 79.8 83.7 86.2 77.7 55.3 73.9 77.2 81.4 84.5
Black 75.8 54.2 73.8 78.8 82.9 87.9 70.6 46.9 67.8 73.5 78.5 85.5
Hispanic 77.6 71.2 78.9 82.4 83.5 85.6 74.3 67.3 75.7 79.2 81.1 83.6
Asian 78.0 63.2 74.0 75.9 81.4 81.8 76.0 60.8 71.6 73.0 79.5 80.0
TABLE 4.6
Unemployment rate of persons 16 years old and over, by age, sex, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment, 2006
Unemployment rate, 2006
16- to 24-year-olds*
Sex, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment Total 16 to 19 years 20 to 24 years 25 years old and over
Reporting standards not met.
*Excludes persons enrolled in school.
Note: The unemployment rate is the percentage of individuals in the labor force who are not working and who made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the prior 4 weeks. The labor force includes both employed and unemployed persons. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: Adapted from Table 369. Unemployment Rate of Persons 16 Years Old and over, by Age, Sex, Race/Ethnicity, and Educational Attainment: 2004, 2005, and 2006, in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, September 2007, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_369.asp (accessed February 11, 2008)
All persons, all education levels 10.5 15.4 8.2 3.6
Less than high school completion 16.6 17.5 14.3 6.8
High school completion, no college 12.0 15.7 10.5 4.3
Some college, no degree 6.3 8.1 5.9 3.9
Associate's degree 5.2 5.1 3.0
Bachelor's or higher degree 5.1 5.1 2.0
Male, all education levels 11.2 16.9 8.7 3.5
Less than high school completion 16.4 18.7 12.3 6.1
High school completion, no college 12.3 17.0 10.6 4.3
Some college, no degree 6.8 9.5 6.3 3.5
Associate's degree 6.4 6.5 3.0
Bachelor's or higher degree 5.7 5.7 1.9
Female, all education levels 9.7 13.8 7.6 3.7
Less than high school completion 16.8 16.3 18.7 7.9
High school completion, no college 11.5 14.2 10.3 4.3
Some college, no degree 5.9 7.1 5.5 4.3
Associate's degree 4.1 3.9 3.1
Bachelor's or higher degree 4.7 4.6 2.1
White, all education levels 8.9 12.8 6.8 3.0
Less than high school completion 14.9 14.7 15.5 6.5
High school completion, no college 10.3 12.9 9.2 3.7
Some college, no degree 5.4 6.9 5.0 3.3
Associate's degree 4.0 3.9 2.7
Bachelor's or higher degree 4.9 4.8 1.9
Black, all education levels 20.5 29.9 16.4 6.8
Less than high school completion 32.2 33.6 29.5 13.0
High school completion, no college 22.2 31.5 19.1 8.0
Some college, no degree 11.7 14.1 11.2 6.7
Associate's degree 15.3 14.2 5.3
Bachelor's or higher degree 8.7 8.4 2.8
Hispanic, all education levels 9.7 15.9 7.2 4.2
Less than high school completion 13.1 18.4 9.3 5.5
High school completion, no college 9.2 13.9 7.7 4.1
Some college, no degree 6.2 10.3 5.2 3.9
Associate's degree 4.5 4.5 2.9
Bachelor's or higher degree 3.7 4.1 2.2
Asian, all education levels 7.4 13.7 5.6 2.6
Less than high school completion 13.5 3.8
High school completion, no college 8.8 5.4 3.1
Some college, no degree 5.9 5.4 3.8
Associate's degree 6.7 2.3
Bachelor's or higher degree 5.1 2.1

EDUCATION AND EARNINGS

Many people decide to attend college because they understand that a college degree will help them get a better job and increase their earnings potential. In fact, individuals with a higher level of education are generally more likely to be working, and they are likely to be earning more than those with lower levels of education. As reported by the National Center for Education Statistics in the Digest of Educational Statistics, 2007 (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_372.asp), in 2006 the median earnings of male college graduates aged twenty-five and over was $55,430, compared with male high school graduates, who earned a median of $33,070, and male high school dropouts, who earned a median of $24,090. (See Chapter 6 for complete discussion of earnings and benefits.)

Although better educated females also make more than their less-educated counterparts, there is a big difference between the earnings of males and females with the same educational background. Males generally earn more than females across all levels of education. The differential is most pronounced at the professional degree level (for example, medical doctor or law school graduate). In 2006 the median annual income of a male aged twenty-five or older with a master's degree was $67,990, whereas the median income for females with the same level of education was $47,590, or 70% of what men earned. Men with doctoral degrees earned a median of $91,050, compared with $60,450 (66.4% of what men earned) for equally educated women. Men aged twenty-five and older with a professional degree secured a median income of $100,000 in 2006; women with the same level of education earned a median income of only $65,110, or 65.1% of what their male counterparts earned.

However, the disparity in pay extends across all education levels. In 2006 female high school dropouts earned a median of $15,160, about 62.9% of what male dropouts earned, while female high school graduates earned a median of $21,610, about 65.3% of what males earned.

Researchers such as Linda Levine of the Congressional Research Service in The Gender Wage Gap and Pay Equity: Is Comparable Worth the Next Step? (June 5, 2001, http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1026&context=key_workplace) and Seth Kuhn of Furman University in Examining a Changing Gender Wage Gap: The Role of Human Capital, (2006, http://economics.furman.edu/SethKuhnPaper.pdf) conclude that the wage gap cannot be explained by a single factor, but instead is attributable to the interrelated effects of many issues, including continuing discrimination against women that works against promotions and equal pay, the segregation of the female workforce into female-dominated jobs with lower wages, and the effects of females being less committed to staying in the workforce, as they are the family members who usually take time out of the labor force to care for small children.

TABLE 4.7
Labor force status of high school dropouts, by sex and race/ethnicity, selected years, 19802006
Dropouts Dropouts in civilian labor forcea
Percentage distribution of population Unemployed
Year, sex, race or ethnicity Number (in thousands) Percent of total Employed Unemployed Not in labor force Number (in thousands) Labor force participation rate Number (in thousands) Unemployment rate Dropouts not in labor force (in thousands)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
All dropoutsb
1980 739 100.0 43.6 20.2 36.3 471 63.7 149 31.6 268
1985 612 100.0 43.5 24.0 32.5 413 67.5 147 35.6 199
1990 405 100.0 46.9 22.2 31.0 280 69.0 90 32.3 125
1995 604 100.0 47.7 20.0 32.3 409 67.7 121 29.6 195
2000 515 100.0 48.7 19.2 32.0 350 68.0 99 28.1 165
2002 401 100.0 47.4 20.2 32.3 271 67.7 81 29.8 129
2003 457 100.0 40.9 18.4 40.7 271 59.3 84 30.8 186
2004 496 100.0 32.5 21.4 46.3 267 53.7 106 39.9 229
2005 407 100.0 38.3 18.9 42.8 233 57.2 77 32.9 174
2006 445 100.0 40.3 12.5 47.2 235 52.8 55 23.6 210
Male
1980 422 57.1 50.2 22.0 27.7 305 72.3 93 30.5 117
1985 321 52.5 50.8 30.5 18.7 261 81.3 98 37.5 60
1990 215 53.1 51.2 29.3 19.8 173 80.2 63 36.2 42
1995 339 56.1 52.8 21.2 26.0 251 74.0 72 28.7 88
2000 295 57.3 56.3 18.3 25.6 220 74.4 54 24.5 76
2002 214 53.4 53.3 16.4 30.5 149 69.5 35 23.4 65
2003 242 53.0 43.8 21.9 34.4 159 65.6 53 33.2 83
2004 278 56.0 35.6 24.1 40.1 166 59.9 67 40.4 112
2005 227 55.8 38.3 21.6 40.3 136 59.7 49 35.9 91
2006 256 57.6 46.3 11.2 42.5 147 57.5 29 19.4 109
Female
1980 317 42.9 34.7 17.7 47.6 166 52.4 56 33.7 151
1985 291 47.5 35.4 16.8 47.8 152 52.2 49 32.2 139
1990 190 46.9 41.6 14.7 43.7 107 56.3 28 26.1 83
1995 265 43.9 40.8 18.5 40.5 157 59.5 49 30.9 107
2000 220 42.7 39.1 20.5 40.6 131 59.4 45 34.2 90
2002 187 46.6 40.6 24.6 34.4 122 65.6 46 37.6 64
2003 215 47.0 37.7 14.4 47.9 112 52.1 31 27.6 103
2004 218 44.0 28.0 17.9 54.1 100 45.9 39 38.9 118
2005 180 44.2 38.3 15.6 46.0 97 54.0 28 28.8 83
2006 189 42.4 32.3 14.2 53.5 88 46.5 27 30.6 101
White
1980c 580 78.5 49.3 18.3 32.4 392 67.6 106 27.0 188
1985c 458 74.8 46.7 25.3 27.9 330 72.1 116 35.2 128
1990c 303 74.8 51.2 18.5 30.2 211 69.8 56 26.3 92
1995 316 52.3 51.6 18.3 30.1 221 69.9 58 26.2 95
2000 288 55.9 60.2 16.5 23.4 221 76.6 47 21.5 67
2002 190 47.4 54.3 13.4 32.3 129 67.7 25 19.8 61
2003 226 49.4 48.0 18.2 33.8 149 66.2 41 27.4 76
2004 239 48.2 36.1 14.9 49.0 122 51.0 36 29.2 117
2005 194 47.6 40.3 20.0 39.7 117 60.3 39 33.2 77
2006 214 48.0 48.9 8.2 42.8 122 57.2 18 14.4 92
TABLE 4.7
Labor force status of high school dropouts, by sex and race/ethnicity, selected years, 19802006
Dropouts Dropouts in civilian labor forcea
Percentage distribution of population Unemployed
Year, sex, race or ethnicity Number (in thousands) Percent of total Employed Unemployed Not in labor force Number (in thousands) Labor force participation rate Number (in thousands) Unemployment rate Dropouts not in labor force (in thousands)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Reporting standards not met.
a The labor force includes all employed persons plus those seeking employment.
The labor force participation rate is the percentage of persons either employed or seeking employment. The unemployment rate is the percentage of persons in the labor force who are seeking employment.
b Persons 16 to 24 years old who dropped out of school in the 12-month period ending in October of years shown.
c Includes persons of Hispanic ethnicity
Note: Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutional population. Includes dropouts from any grade, including a small number from elementary and middle schools. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity unless otherwise noted. Totals include race categories not separately shown. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: Table 376. Labor Force Status of High School Dropouts, by Sex and Race/Ethnicity: Selected Years, 1980 through 2006, in Digest of Education Statistics, 2007, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, August 2007, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_376.asp (accessed February 11, 2008)
Black
1980c 146 19.8 22.6 27.4 50.0 73 50.0 40 73
1985c 132 21.6 29.5 22.7 47.7 69 52.3 30 63
1990c 86 21.2 30.2 34.9 34.7 56 65.3 30 30
1995 104 17.2 33.5 25.8 40.8 62 59.2 27 42
2000 106 20.6 26.7 25.5 47.8 55 52.2 27 51
2002 77 19.1 33.2 35.4 31.3 53 68.7 27 24
2003 81 17.8 29.1 22.9 48.0 42 52.0 19 39
2004 86 17.3 9.9 44.9 45.2 47 54.8 39 39
2005 108 26.5 26.5 16.0 57.5 46 42.5 17 62
2006 69 36 17 33
Hispanic
1980 91 12.3 47.3 18.7 34.1 60 65.9 17 31
1985 106 17.3 37.7 31.1 31.1 73 68.9 33 33
1990 67 16.5 32 10 35
1995 174 28.8 48.5 20.1 31.4 119 68.6 35 29.3 55
2000 101 19.6 39.0 22.2 38.9 62 61.1 22 39
2002 94 23.4 42.2 24.3 33.5 62 66.5 23 31
2003 124 27.1 40.7 13.8 45.5 68 54.5 17 57
2004 154 31.0 39.3 17.4 43.2 87 56.8 27 30.7 67
2005 86 21.1 45.1 19.2 35.7 55 64.3 17 31
2006 136 30.5 35.3 12.6 52.2 65 47.8 17 71

Beyond the Bachelor's Degree

Having a bachelor's degree opens the door to many occupational options, but a degree itself does not guarantee that a graduate will enter a high-paying career. In general, graduates who major in business, computer sciences, and engineering will find that occupations in their subject areas pay higher salaries than do occupations in education, the humanities, and social and behavioral sciences. For example, the median weekly earnings of network systems and data communication analysts ($1,039) and network and computer systems administrators ($1,180) were considerably higher than those for elementary and middle school teachers ($863), librarians ($861), salaried writers ($999), or social workers ($757) in 2007. (See Table 6.2 in Chapter 6.)

In fact, the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported in Year-End Report Shows Salary Gains for Class of 2007 (September 12, 2007, http://www.naceweb.org/press/display.asp?year=2007&prid=264) that the starting salaries for engineers and computer scientists graduating with a bachelor's degree in May 2007 surpassed the median annual earnings of many other professions. Class of 2007 graduates with a chemical engineering degree could expect a starting salary of $59,218 and those with amechanical engineering degree could expect a starting salary of $54,057. Grads with computer science degrees could expect a salary offer of $53,051. In contrast, history majors could expect only $35,092 and English majors could expect only $31,924 to start.

The lifelong earnings potential of a college degree makes a four-year bachelor's degree attractive to both recent high school graduates and adults returning to formal education to advance their careers. In some fast-growing occupational fields, including health care and education, the highest-paying jobs now require formal education beyond the bachelor's degree for entry or advancement. Figure 4.1 presents a list of twenty large-growth occupations that require a master's, doctoral, or first-professional degree for employment, their median annual wages, and the projected change in employment in these occupations from 2006 through 2016. Although the huge growth in available positions for postsecondary teachers reflects expanding college enrollments, most of the other high growth occupations are in the health-care field.

EDUCATION AND POVERTY

In general, as individuals attain higher educational levels, the risk of living in poverty falls markedly. Of all those sixteen years of age and older in the labor force during 2005, those with less than a high school diploma had a much higher poverty rate (14.1%) than did high school graduates (6.6%), according to the BLS in A Profile of the Working Poor, 2005. The lowest poverty rates were reported by workers with an associate degree (3.4%) or bachelor's degree or higher (1.7%). (See Table 4.8.)

Historically, poverty rates are higher for African-American and Hispanic workers than for non-Hispanic white workers at all educational levels. This trend held true in 2005. The poverty rates of African-American and Hispanic high school dropouts were 22.2% and 16.5%, respectively, while the poverty rates of non-Hispanic whites and Asians with comparable education were 13% and 10%, respectively. (See Table 4.8.) Even among those with a bachelor's degree, poverty rates were higher for Hispanics and African-Americans. The poverty rate for African-Americans with a bachelor's degree or higher was 2.7% in 2005; for Hispanics it was 2.6%. On the other hand, the poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites with a bachelor's degree or higher was only 1.5%.

TABLE 4.8
Poverty status of workers by educational attainment, race/ethnicity, and sex, 2005

[Numbers in thousands]
Ratea
Educational attainment, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity Total Men Women Total Men Women
a Number below the poverty level as a percent of the total in the labor force for 27 weeks or more.
b Includes people with a high school diploma or equivalent.
c Includes people with bachelor's, master's, professional, and doctoral degrees.
d Data not shown where base is less than 80,000.
Note: Estimates for the above race groups (white, black or African American, and Asian) do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races. In addition, people whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race and, therefore, are classified by ethnicity as well as by race.
SOURCE: Adapted from Table 3. People in the Labor Force for 27 Weeks or More: Poverty Status by Educational Attainment, Race, Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity, and Sex, 2005, in A Profile of the Working Poor, 2005, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2007, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswp2005.pdf (accessed February 8, 2008)
Total, 16 years and older 142,824 77,329 65,495 5.4 4.8 6.1
Less than a high school diploma 15,961 10,136 5,825 14.1 12.6 16.8
Less than 1 year of high school 5,020 3,494 1,526 16.0 15.4 17.3
13 years of high school 8,918 5,401 3,517 14.2 11.9 17.8
4 years of high school, no diploma 2,022 1,241 782 9.1 7.8 11.3
High school graduates, no collegeb 42,947 24,154 18,793 6.6 5.6 8.0
Some college or associate degree 41,514 20,570 20,944 4.7 3.7 5.6
Some college, no degree 27,930 14,212 13,718 5.3 4.2 6.4
Associate degree 13,583 6,358 7,226 3.4 2.7 4.0
Bachelor's degree and higherc 42,402 22,469 19,933 1.7 1.6 1.7
White, 16 years and older 117,078 64,603 52,475 4.7 4.4 5.0
Less than a high school diploma 12,939 8,495 4,444 13.0 12.0 14.8
Less than 1 year of high school 4,309 3,073 1,236 15.7 15.1 17.2
13 years of high school 7,083 4,433 2,651 12.5 11.1 14.9
4 years of high school, no diploma 1,547 990 557 7.8 6.8 9.6
High school graduates, no collegeb 34,885 19,938 14,947 5.5 4.9 6.3
Some college or associate degree 34,111 17,221 16,890 4.0 3.3 4.6
Some college, no degree 22,643 11,754 10,889 4.5 3.8 5.3
Associate degree 11,468 5,467 6,001 2.8 2.4 3.2
Bachelor's degree and higherc 35,143 18,949 16,194 1.5 1.4 1.6
Black or African American, 16 years and older 16,122 7,482 8,640 10.5 7.7 13.0
Less than a high school diploma 1,956 1,035 922 22.2 15.8 29.4
Less than 1 year of high school 307 194 112 18.7 16.2 22.9
13 years of high school 1,323 674 649 24.5 16.3 33.0
4 years of high school, no diploma 327 166 161 16.1 13.0 19.3
High school graduates, no collegeb 5,778 2,898 2,881 12.7 8.5 17.0
Some college or associate degree 5,050 2,151 2,899 8.6 5.7 10.8
Some college, no degree 3,698 1,606 2,091 9.3 6.0 11.8
Associate degree 1,352 545 808 6.7 4.9 7.9
Bachelor's degree and higherc 3,337 1,398 1,938 2.7 3.0 2.4
Asian, 16 years and older 6,290 3,396 2,894 4.7 5.0 4.4
Less than a high school diploma 568 303 265 10.0 11.9 7.8
Less than 1 year of high school 255 126 129 12.2 10.8 13.5
13 years of high school 217 126 91 9.7 15.2 2.1
4 years of high school, no diploma 97 51 46 d d d
High school graduates, no collegeb 1,243 690 552 7.3 8.6 5.6
Some college or associate degree 1,208 618 590 6.1 5.4 6.7
Some college, no degree 755 409 346 5.9 5.7 6.0
Associate degree 453 209 244 6.4 4.8 7.7
Bachelor's degree and higherc 3,271 1,785 1,487 2.4 2.3 2.5
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and older 18,905 11,557 7,348 10.5 10.4 10.6
Less than a high school diploma 6,651 4,604 2,047 16.5 15.6 18.5
Less than 1 year of high school 3,527 2,526 1,001 17.4 16.9 18.7
13 years of high school 2,534 1,672 861 16.4 14.8 19.6
4 years of high school, no diploma 591 406 185 11.4 11.1 12.0
High school graduates, no collegeb 5,747 3,524 2,223 9.4 9.1 10.0
Some college or associate degree 4,141 2,207 1,935 6.8 5.9 7.8
Some college, no degree 2,930 1,607 1,322 7.4 6.7 8.4
Associate degree 1,212 599 612 5.2 3.7 6.6
Bachelor's degree and higherc 2,365 1,222 1,143 2.6 2.9 2.4

The Education of American Workers

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The Education of American Workers