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THE CONDITION OF EDUCATION 2013: Annual Report Spotlights Huge Gap in Employment Rates between High School Dropouts and Bachelor’s Degree Recipients

Fewer than half of high school dropouts aged twenty to twenty-four were employed in 2012, compared to 64 percent of high school graduates and 86 percent of individuals with bachelor’s degree or higher, according to The Condition of Education 2013, the annual report from the National Center for Education Statistics. Mandated by the U.S. Congress, The Condition of Education is released annually to help inform policymakers and the public about the progress of education in the United States.

As shown in the graph below, older high school dropouts—those aged twenty-five to thirty-four and those aged twenty-five to sixty-four—fared slightly better than their younger counterparts, but were still employed at a much lower rate than individuals with additional education. Bachelor’s degree recipients aged twenty to twenty-four were employed at the highest rate of any age group (86 percent).1

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When broken down by sex, the employment rate for female high school dropouts aged twenty to twenty-four (36 percent) was much lower than it was for their male counterparts. The male-female gap in employment rates was highest among high school dropouts (21 percentage points) and declines as individuals attain more education. Among bachelor’s degree recipients, for example, the male-female gap is only 5 percentage points (89 percent for males, 84 percent for females).

As shown in the graph below, the employment rate for both male and female high school dropouts aged twenty to twenty-four was much lower in 2012 than it was when the recession hit in 2008.2  Conversely, the employment rate for males with bachelor’s degrees has nearly recovered to the level it was in 2008 while the employment rates for males with some college, with high school diplomas, and without high school diplomas continue to be far below their 2007 levels, indicating many of the jobs lost during the recession for individuals with lower levels of education have not come back.

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Also of note, the 7-percentage-point decrease—from 92 to 85 percent—in the employment rate from 2008 to 2010 for males who had at least a bachelor’s degree was much smaller than the 15-percentage-point decrease (from 68 to 53 percent) for males who did not complete high school, indicating that males with bachelor’s degrees were less likely to be impacted by the recession than their counterparts who dropped out of high school.

The Condition of Education 2013 includes forty-two indicators of important developments and trends in U.S. education on population characteristics, participation in education, elementary and secondary education, and postsecondary education. In addition, each year’s report includes special “spotlights” that provide a more in-depth look at the issues. In addition to trends in employment rates by educational attainment, this year’s report focuses on kindergarten entry status, the status of rural education, and financing postsecondary education in the United States.

The complete report is available at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013037.pdf.

1 Unlike the unemployment rate, which does not include people who are not looking for a job, the employment rate treats all individuals—including retirees, stay-at-home parents, individuals not interest in working, and others—as potential workers.
2 The National Bureau of Economic Research determined that the most recent recession began in December 2007 and continued through June 2009.

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