Education attainment and employment

The Census Bureau using data from the 2010 Current Population Survey just released what they describe as “the most detailed information on years of school completed ever presented by the Census Bureau”. It is worth looking at. Lots of interesting data on education attainment by age, race, gender, etc.

What I want to focus on today is the relationship between employment and education attainment. All of sudden there seems to be lots of chatter about college attainment not being all that valuable in the labor market. Don’t believe it! The CPS data, because it is the survey used to determine the monthly unemployment rate, allows us to look at employment by education attainment.

What are the facts? The average unemployment rate for all of 2010 was 8.9%. Here is what it looks like by education attainment:

  • Less than a high school degree: 16.4%
  • High school degree: 11.9%
  • Some college, no degree: 9.6%
  • Associates degree: 7.3%
  • Bachelors degree: 5.4%
  • Masters or more: 3.5%

So much for a college degree not mattering much in the labor market! Add to that the same lock step progression in terms of wages and salary – the higher the education attainment the higher the average employment earnings – and the case is overwhelming that education attainment is by far the most reliable route to a job and higher pay in both recessions and expansions. End of story!

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