Economic News Release

America's Young Adults at 29: Labor Market Activity, Education and Partner Status: Results from a Longitudinal Survey

For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Friday, April 8, 2016                          USDL-16-0700

Technical information:(202) 691-7410  *  nls_info@bls.gov  *  www.bls.gov/nls
Media contact:        (202) 691-5902  *  PressOffice@bls.gov


    LABOR MARKET ACTIVITY, EDUCATION, AND PARTNER STATUS AMONG AMERICA'S YOUNG
                ADULTS AT 29: RESULTS FROM A LONGITUDINAL SURVEY


Young adults born in the early 1980s held an average of 7.2 jobs from age 18 through
age 28, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Individuals held more
jobs at younger ages, and the number of jobs held declined as individuals aged. Young
adults held an average of 3.9 jobs from ages 18 to 21 compared with 2.5 jobs from
ages 25 to 28. From ages 18 to 28, women with more education held more jobs than
women with less education. Regardless of education, men held a similar number of
jobs.

These findings are from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, a nationally
representative survey of about 9,000 young 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 28 to 34 when interviewed for the 16th time in 2013-14. 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 educational attainment, employment experiences, and
partner status of these individuals from their 18th birthday until they turned 29.

Highlights from the longitudinal survey data:

   --By 29 years of age, 34 percent of women had received a bachelor's degree,
     compared with 26 percent of men. Seventy-two percent of women had attended
     college compared with 63 percent of men. (See table 1.)

   --Young adults held an average of 7.2 jobs from ages 18 through 28, with over
     half of these jobs being held between the ages of 18 and 21. (See table 2.)

   --Women with less than a high school diploma were employed an average of
     41 percent of weeks from ages 18 to 28, while men with less than a high
     school diploma were employed 63 percent of weeks. Among young adults with
     a bachelor's degree and higher, women were employed an average of 79 percent
     of weeks, while men were employed 75 percent of weeks. (See table 3.)

   --Young adults were employed for an average of 74 percent of weeks from ages
     18 to 28. This varied across age brackets: individuals were employed 67
     percent of weeks from ages 18 to 21, 77 percent of weeks from ages 22 to 24,
     and 78 percent of weeks from ages 25 to 28. (See table 4.)

   --Almost 50 percent of jobs held by high school dropouts from ages 18 to 28
     were held for less than 6 months. For those with a bachelor's degree and
     higher, 34 percent of jobs were held for less than 6 months. (See table 5.)

   --At the time of their 29th birthday, 40 percent of young adults were married,
     20 percent were cohabiting, and 40 percent were single. The percent of
     young adults living with a partner did not vary by education, though those
     with higher levels of education were more likely to be married and less
     likely to be cohabiting than those with lower levels of education. (See
     table 6.)

   --Men who were single at age 29 were employed 70 percent of the weeks from
     ages 18 to 28, compared with 83 percent for those who were married and
     76 percent for those who were cohabiting. The percentage of weeks
     employed did not vary substantially by partner status for women. (See
     table 7.)

Educational Attainment at Age 29

At 29 years of age, 30 percent of individuals had received a bachelor's degree,
while 38 percent had attended some college or received an associate degree.
Twenty-four percent of 29 year-olds had a high school diploma or General
Education Development (GED) credential and no further schooling. (See table 1.)

Women were more likely than men to have received a bachelor's degree by age 29.
Thirty-four percent of women had earned a bachelor's degree, compared with 26
percent of men. In total, 72 percent of women had either attended some college or
received a bachelor's degree, compared with 63 percent of men. In addition to
being more likely to attend college, women were more likely to have finished their
college degree. Of the 72 percent of women who started college, 47 percent received
a bachelor's degree by age 29. In comparison, of the 63 percent of men who started
college, 41 percent had received a bachelor's degree.

Within each racial and ethnic group examined, women were more likely to have a
bachelor's degree than men. White women were more likely than White men to have
received a bachelor's degree (39 percent versus 31 percent), Black women were more
likely than Black men (21 percent versus 12 percent), and Hispanic women were more
likely than Hispanic men (20 percent versus 14 percent).

At age 29, there was a large difference in educational attainment among racial and
ethnic groups. Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics were more likely than Whites to
have dropped out of high school. In comparison, Whites were more than twice as
likely as Blacks or Hispanics to have received a bachelor's degree by this age.
Thirty-five percent of Whites had received a bachelor's degree at age 29, compared
with 17 percent of both Blacks and Hispanics. Among those who had attended college,
Whites were more likely than Blacks or Hispanics to have received a bachelor's
degree. Just over one-quarter of Blacks and Hispanics who had attended college had
received a bachelor's degree by age 29, compared with one-half of Whites.

Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics achieved similar educational attainment levels
by age 29. Among both groups, 29 percent were high school graduates who had not
attended any college, though the two groups achieved this result in different ways.
Sixty percent of Black high school graduates who did not attend college received a
high school diploma and 40 percent completed a GED; among Hispanics of similar
educational attainment, 71 percent received a high school diploma and 29 percent
received a GED.

Employment Experiences of Young Adults from Age 18 through Age 28

Young adults held an average of 7.2 jobs from the ages of 18 through 28 in 1998-2013.
Men held an average of 7.1 jobs and women held an average of 7.3 jobs during this
time. Women at higher levels of educational attainment held more jobs than women at
lower levels. Women with a bachelor's degree held 8.0 jobs from ages 18 through 28,
compared with 5.6 jobs for female high school dropouts. Men held a similar number of
jobs regardless of their level of educational attainment. Men with a bachelor's
degree held 7.0 jobs from ages 18 through 28, compared to 6.9 jobs for male high
school dropouts. (See table 2.)  In this news release, a job is defined as a period
of work, including gaps, with a particular employer. (See the Technical Note for
additional information on the definition of a job.)

Examining employment experiences by smaller age brackets shows individuals held fewer
jobs in each subsequent age bracket. Individuals held an average of 3.9 jobs in the
4-year period from ages 18 to 21. The number of jobs individuals held dropped to 2.7
in the 3-year period from ages 22 to 24, and then dropped further to 2.5 in the 4-year
period from ages 25 to 28. The pattern of individuals holding fewer jobs as they aged 
was similar for most sex, racial, and ethnic groups and levels of educational attainment.

On average, young adults were employed during 74 percent of the weeks occurring from
age 18 through age 28, unemployed--that is, without a job but seeking work--6 percent of
the weeks, and not in the labor force--that is, neither working nor seeking work--20
percent of the weeks. (See table 3.)

As a whole, individuals with higher levels of educational attainment were employed for
a higher percentage of weeks and unemployed for a lower percentage of weeks than
individuals with lower levels of education. The percentage of weeks not in the labor
force generally decreased with an individual's level of educational attainment.

From ages 18 to 28, men spent less time not in the labor force than women (17 percent
versus 23 percent) and more time employed (76 percent versus 71 percent). This
relationship held at all levels of educational attainment except among those with a
bachelor's degree. Women with a bachelor's degree and higher spent a larger proportion
of weeks employed than did similarly educated men (79 percent versus 75 percent) and
less time not in the labor force (18 percent versus 22 percent). The percentage of
weeks worked increased for women with each higher level of educational attainment,
while men with a bachelor's degree actually spent fewer weeks employed than men with
some college or an associate degree (75 percent versus 79 percent).

Statistically significant employment gaps existed between racial and ethnic groups.
On average, Whites were employed during 76 percent of the weeks that occurred from
age 18 through age 28, Hispanics were employed during 73 percent of the weeks, and
Blacks were employed during 63 percent of the weeks.

The employment gap between Whites and Blacks is more pronounced at lower levels of
educational attainment. White high school dropouts spent 57 percent of weeks employed
from ages 18 through 28, while Black dropouts spent 39 percent of weeks employed
during these ages. The gap is smaller among those who held a bachelor's degree;
however, the difference in the percentage of weeks employed is still significant.
White college graduates spent 79 percent of weeks employed, while Black college
graduates spent 75 percent of weeks employed.

The employment gap between Hispanics and Blacks is also more pronounced at lower
levels of education. Hispanic dropouts spent 59 percent of weeks employed from 
ages 18 through 28, while Black dropouts spent 39 percent of weeks employed during
these ages. Hispanic and Black college graduates spent a similar percentage of weeks
employed (76 percent versus 75 percent). The employment gap between Whites and
Hispanics is insignificant among high school dropouts (57 percent versus 59 percent)
and those with some college or an associate degree (78 percent versus 77 percent).

Young adults spent 67 percent of weeks employed from ages 18 to 21, 77 percent of
weeks from ages 22 to 24, and 78 percent of weeks from ages 25 to 28. Men spent a
higher percentage of weeks employed in each subsequent age bracket, but this was not
the case for women. Men spent 67 percent of weeks employed from ages 18 to 21; this 
increased to 79 percent of weeks from ages 22 to 24 and increased further to 81
percent from ages 25 to 28. Women spent 66 percent of weeks employed from ages 18
to 21; this increased to 74 percent of weeks from ages 22 to 24 but remained at 74
percent from ages 25 to 28. Men were employed for a significantly higher percentage
of weeks than women during age brackets 22 to 24 and 25 to 28. (See table 4.) 

The employment gap between racial and ethnic groups also existed within each age
bracket analyzed. During ages 18 to 21, 22 to 24, and 25 to 28, Whites were employed
during a higher percentage of weeks than Hispanics, who were employed during a higher
percentage of weeks than Blacks.

As these young adults aged, they spent increasingly less time out of the labor force.
Young adults spent 27 percent of weeks not in the labor force from ages 18 to 21, 18
percent of weeks from ages 22 to 24, and 16 percent of weeks from ages 25 to 28. This
trend was apparent across almost all sex, racial, and ethnic groups examined.

Duration of Employment Relationships

Most jobs held through age 28 were of relatively short duration. Of all the jobs held
by 18- to 28-year-old workers, 37 percent ended in less than 6 months; 18 percent
ended in 6 months or more, but less than 1 year; 16 percent ended in 1 year or more,
but less than 2 years; 15 percent lasted 2 years or more; and another 15 percent of
jobs were ongoing at the individual's 29th birthday. (See table 5.)

Jobs held by high school dropouts were more likely to end in less than 6 months than
jobs held by individuals with higher levels of educational attainment. Jobs held by
high school graduates or individuals with some college were also more likely to end
in less than 6 months than jobs held by individuals with a bachelor's degree and
higher. In particular, female high school dropouts held jobs for the shortest
duration, with 52 percent of jobs ending in less than 6 months.

Partner Status and Employment Experiences

At 29 years of age, 40 percent of young adults were married, 20 percent were
cohabiting--unmarried and living with a partner, and 40 percent were single--not
married and not living with a partner. (See table 6.) 

The percentage of young adults who were single did not vary significantly across
educational attainment levels (ranging between 39 and 40 percent for all education 
groups). Those with higher levels of education were more likely to be married and
less likely to be cohabiting than those with lower levels of education. At the time
of their 29th birthday, 34 percent of high school dropouts, 37 percent of high school
graduates, 40 percent of individuals with some college or an associate degree, and
45 percent of college graduates were married.

Partner status varied greatly by race and ethnicity. Blacks were much more likely to
be single than either Whites or Hispanics. At 29 years of age, 60 percent of Blacks
were single, compared with 34 percent of Whites and 39 percent of Hispanics. Blacks
were also significantly less likely to be married than either Whites or Hispanics
(22 percent versus 46 percent and 39 percent, respectively).

At age 29, women were significantly more likely to be married and less likely to be
single than men. Forty-five percent of women were married and 35 percent were single,
while 36 percent of men were married and 44 percent were single. Women were also
generally more likely to be married than men at each level of educational attainment.

Compared with young adults who were single at age 29, young adults who were married
worked more weeks from ages 18 to 28, spent fewer weeks unemployed, and spent fewer
weeks not in the labor force. From ages 18 to 28, single young adults spent 70 percent
of weeks employed, 8 percent of weeks unemployed, and 22 percent of weeks not in the
labor force, while those who were married spent 77 percent of weeks employed, 5 
percent of weeks unemployed, and 19 percent of weeks not in the labor force. Cohabiting
young adults spent 73 percent of weeks employed, 7 percent of weeks unemployed, and 19
percent of weeks not in the labor force. (See table 7.)

Men accounted for most of the variation in employment experiences by partner status.
Married men worked more weeks, were unemployed fewer weeks, and were less likely to
be not in the labor force than either single or cohabiting men. Married men spent
83 percent of weeks employed, compared with 70 percent for single men and 76 percent
for cohabiting men. In contrast, there were limited differences in the employment
experiences of women by partner status. Married women were slightly more likely to
be employed than single women (73 percent versus 70 percent) and were less likely to
be unemployed than either single or cohabiting women (4 percent versus 7 percent).

Married individuals also worked more weeks than single individuals when comparing
within racial and ethnic groups. Married Whites spent a higher percentage of weeks
employed than single Whites (78 percent versus 74 percent), married Blacks spent a
higher percentage of weeks employed than single Blacks (69 percent versus 61 percent),
and married Hispanics spent a higher percentage of weeks employed than single
Hispanics (75 percent versus 70 percent).



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Last Modified Date: April 08, 2016
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