February 10, 2012
At 24 years of age, 23 percent of individuals had received a 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.
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 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.
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. The amount of time employed differed 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 black 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 differed 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 education spent a larger proportion of weeks employed than did men.
These data are from the National Longitudinal Surveys. See "America's Young Adults at 24: School Enrollment, Training, and Employment Transitions Between Ages 23 and 24," (HTML) (PDF), news release USDL-12-0216, to learn more. These data are from the first 13 annual rounds of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), which is a nationally representative survey of about 9,000 young men and women who were born during the years 1980 to 1984.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Young adults at school and work on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2012/ted_20120210.htm (visited May 04, 2016).
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Fifty years of looking at changes in peoples lives
Longitudinal surveys help us understand long-term changes, such as how events that happened when a person was in high school affect labor market success as an adult.