At Age 24, Men are a Third Less Likely to Have Earned a Bachelor’s Degree

Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—February 9, 2012.  At age 24, a clear gender gap in educational attainment persists. While nearly 28 percent of women had received a bachelor’s degree by the October when they were age 24, only 19 percent of men had done so, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Additionally, nearly the same percentage of men and women (12 and 13 percent, respectively) were enrolled in college at age 24, so it is unlikely the gap in educational attainment will close.

These findings are from the first 13 annual rounds of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, which is a nationally representative survey of about 9,000 men and women who were born during the years 1980 to 1984. These respondents were ages 12 to 17 when first interviewed in 1997, and ages 24 to 30 when interviewed for the 13th time in 2009-10. The survey provides information on work and nonwork experiences, training, schooling, income, assets, and other characteristics. The information provided by respondents is representative of all men and women born in the early 1980s and living in the United States when the survey began in 1997.

This release focuses on the school enrollment and employment experiences of these individuals from the October when they were age 23 to the October when they were age 24. Respondents were age 23 in October during the years 2003 to 2008, and age 24 in October from 2004 to 2009.

Highlights from the longitudinal survey include:

  • During the October when they were 24 years old, 19 percent of men had      received a bachelor’s degree, compared with 28 percent of women. (See table 1.)
  • Among those who were enrolled in college when they were 23 years old, over one-fourth had received their bachelor’s degree by age 24, while 23 percent were no longer enrolled in college or training. Non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics or Latinos were less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have received a bachelor’s degree between ages 23 and 24. (See table 2.)
  • Seven percent of male high school graduates who had never enrolled in college were in the U.S. Armed Forces during the October when they were age 24, as were 7 percent of the 24-year old men who had attended college but had not earned a bachelor’s degree and were no longer enrolled. Two percent of 24-year old men with a bachelor’s degree were serving in the Armed Forces. (See table 3.)
  • Individuals born from 1980 to 1984 held an average of 5.4 jobs from age 18 to age 24. Those with more education held more jobs than those with less education. (See table 4.)
  • High school graduates who had never enrolled in college were employed an average of 75 percent of the weeks from age 18 to age 24. By comparison, those who had dropped out of high school were employed 55 percent of those weeks. (See table 4.)
  • By their 25th birthday, 6 percent of the young adults who had not received a high school diploma had never held a job since turning 18. (See table 5.)

Educational Attainment at Age 24

At 24 years of age, 23 percent of individuals had received their bachelor’s degree, an increase from 19 percent at 23 years of age. The percentage of individuals enrolled in college decreased from 17 percent at age 23 to 13 percent at age 24.

Forty-six percent of 24-year olds had graduated from high school and were not enrolled in college, and 9 percent had earned a General Educational Development (GED) credential and were not enrolled in college. Ten percent of individuals were high school dropouts during the October when they were age 24. (See table 1.)

Women were much more likely than men to have received a bachelor’s degree by the October when they were age 24, and were equally likely to still be enrolled in college. Twenty-eight percent of women had earned a bachelor’s degree, compared with 19 percent of men. At age 24, women were less likely than men to be a high school dropout or a high school graduate not enrolled in college. (See table 1.)

There remains a large and growing gap in educational attainment among racial and ethnic groups. Non-Hispanic whites are nearly three times as likely as Hispanics or Latinos to have received their bachelor’s degree at age 24. Twenty-eight percent of non-Hispanic whites had received their bachelor’s degree, compared with 11 percent of non-Hispanic blacks and 10 percent of Hispanics or Latinos. Non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics or Latinos are about twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be high school dropouts in the October they were age 24.

Schooling and Training between Ages 23 and 24

Some people delay their college enrollment for a year or more after high school, and others enroll in college and then leave before earning a degree. By the October when age 23, a large proportion of individuals who will successfully attain a bachelor’s degree had already done so, since only 17 percent of individuals were still enrolled in college the October when age 23. (See table 1.) By the October of the following year, 23 percent of those college-enrolled individuals were no longer enrolled in college or training, while 26 percent had earned a bachelor’s degree. (See table 2.)

Of those enrolled in college the October when age 23, an equal percent of men and women had earned their bachelor’s degree by the following October when age 24 (27 and 25 percent, respectively).

Nonwhites continue to lose ground academically. Compared with non-Hispanic whites, non- Hispanic blacks and Hispanics or Latinos who were enrolled in college in the October when age 23 were more likely to have left college by October of the following year without a degree.

Instead of attending college, some young adults enroll in training to further their skills. Five percent of high school graduates who were not enrolled in college at age 23 were in a training program during the October when age 24, while 2 percent of those previously enrolled in college at age 23 were enrolled in a training program at age 24.

Employment Status at Age 24 of Young Adults Not Enrolled in School

At age 24, labor force status differed substantially by educational attainment. Those with more education were more likely to be employed in civilian jobs and less likely to not be in the labor force. Sixty percent of high school dropouts were employed in civilian jobs in the October they were age 24. At the same age, 76 percent of high school graduates who had never enrolled in college were employed in civilian jobs, and another 4 percent were serving in the Armed Forces. Among 24-year-old high school graduates who had some college experience, but had not earned a bachelor’s degree and were no longer enrolled in college, 80 percent were employed in civilian jobs, and 4 percent were serving in the Armed Forces. Ninety-two percent of 24-year olds, who had earned a bachelor’s degree and were no longer enrolled, were employed in civilian jobs, while 2 percent were serving in the Armed Forces. (See table 3.)

While men and women who had attended college or graduated from college are equally likely to be employed at age 24, at lower education levels, men are more likely to be working than women. Sixty-nine percent of male high school dropouts were employed in the civilian labor force during the October when they were age 24, compared with 49 percent of female dropouts. Among high school graduates who had never enrolled in college, 79 percent of men and 70 percent of women were employed in civilian jobs, and 7 percent of men and 1 percent of women were serving in the military. Eighty-one percent of men and 79 percent of women who had attended some college, but had not earned a bachelor’s degree and were no longer enrolled, were employed in civilian jobs in the October when they were age 24. Seven percent of men in this educational-attainment group were serving in the military, compared with 2 percent of women. Among those who had earned a bachelor’s degree and were no longer enrolled, approximately 94 percent of both men and women were either employed in civilian jobs or serving in the military during the October when they were age 24.

Employment Attachment of Young Adults

Individuals had an average of 5.4 jobs from the ages of 18 to 24 in 1998-2009. On average, men held 5.1 jobs and women held 5.6. (See table 4.) In this report, a job is defined as an uninterrupted period of work with a particular employer. (See the Technical Note for additional information on the definition of a job.)

On average, young adults represented by the survey sample were employed during 74 percent of all the weeks occurring from age 18 to age 24. They were unemployed—that is, without jobs but seeking and available for work–5 percent of the weeks. They were not in the labor force–that is, neither working nor seeking work–21 percent of the weeks.

The amount of time employed differs substantially between educational-attainment groups, especially among non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics or Latinos. Non-Hispanic blacks with less than a high school diploma spent the same percent of time employed as they spent out of the labor force, 42 percent. By comparison, non-Hispanic blacks high school graduates who had never enrolled in college spent 62 percent of weeks employed and 25 percent of weeks out of the labor force. Non-Hispanic blacks with a bachelor’s degree or more education were employed 69 percent of weeks from age 18 to age 24. Hispanic or Latino high school dropouts spent 61 percent of weeks employed, compared with 75 percent of weeks for Hispanic or Latino high school graduates.

The amount of time spent in the labor force also differs by sex. Men with less than a high school diploma spent 62 percent of weeks employed from age 18 to age 24. These men also spent 12 percent of weeks unemployed. By comparison, women with less than a high school diploma spent 45 percent of weeks employed and 10 percent of weeks unemployed from age 18 to age 24. Women without a high school diploma spent as much time out of the labor force as they did employed. Women with a bachelor’s degree or more spent a larger proportion of weeks employed than did men with a bachelor’s degree or more (75 versus 69 percent).

Duration of Employment Relationships

By their 25th birthday, nearly all young adults had held at least one job since age 18, although high school dropouts, especially female and non-Hispanic black dropouts, were less likely ever to have held a job than were young adults with more education. Most jobs held through age 24 were of relatively short duration. Of the jobs held by 18- to 24-year-old workers, 56 percent ended in 1 year or less, and another 14 percent ended in less than 2 years. Eleven percent of jobs lasted 2 years or more. Another 20 percent of jobs were ongoing at the time of the 2009-10 survey, and their ultimate duration is therefore not yet known. Jobs held by high school dropouts were more likely to end in 1 year or less than were jobs held by workers with more education. (See table 5.)

Source: bls.gov