Friday, March 28, 2014

Labor Market Activity, Education, and Households of Young Adults in U.S.

This week the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released an in-depth portrait of young adults born in the early 1980s in the U.S. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1997) has surveyed the same representative group of 9,000 men and women 15 times between 1997 and 2012.

The big take-home message: more educational attainment is associated with more engagement in employment.

The BLS reported that young adults born between 1980 and 1984 held an average of 6.2 jobs from the ages of 18 to 26. More than two-thirds of those jobs were held from ages 18 to 22. Women with more education held more jobs than less educated women, while men held a similar number of jobs regardless of education level.

Roughly one out of four (28%) young adults earned a bachelor's degree by age 27, while another one-fourth earned a high school diploma or GED equivalent (and no further schooling). Women were more likely than men to earn a bachelor's degree: about one-third (32%) of women held the credential, compared with one-fourth (24%) of men. More broadly, 70 percent of young women had either attended some college or received a bachelor's. For men, the total was 61 percent.

The BLS also reported large differences in educational attainment among racial and ethnic groups. Young white adults were more than twice as likely to have attained a bachelor's degree than their black or Hispanic peers.

The amount of time young adults spent working between ages 18 and 26 varied notably by education. Those with less than a high school diploma were employed just over half (54%) of all weeks during those years. At the same time, high school graduates spent 71 percent of all weeks employed, those with some college were employed 77 percent of all weeks, and young adults with a bachelor's or advanced degree were employed 75 percent of all weeks between ages 18 and 26.

Other highlights from the BLS summary include:
  • More than two-thirds of the jobs held by high school dropouts ages 18 to 26 were held for less than a year. For those with a bachelor's or advanced degree, approximately 50 percent of jobs were held for less than one year.
  • Young adults who were single at age 27 were employed 70 percent of the weeks from ages 18 to 26, compared with 77 percent of the weeks for those who were married, and 72 percent of weeks for those cohabiting.
  • Women with children in the household at age 27 were employed 65 percent of weeks from age 18 to 26, compared with employment during 76 percent of all weeks for women without children at home.
Much more information about the employment, education, and household characteristics of young adults in the U.S. can be found in the information-dense release from the BLS.

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