This study examines whether a college degree protected these recent graduates from a range of poor employment outcomes during the recession, including unemployment, low-skill jobs, and lesser wages. The report draws upon data from the 2003–2011 Current Population Survey (CPS) to examine the early labor market outcomes of 21- through 24-year-olds. « Read It » With David Grusky, Natassia Rodriquez and Chris Wimer.
- Although all 21–24 year olds experienced declines in employment and wages during the recession, the decline was considerably more severe for those with only high school or associate degrees.
- Before the recession, just over half of young adults with a high school degree (HS) were employed, compared to almost two-thirds of those with an associate degree (AA) and nearly three-fourths of those with a bachelor’s degree (BA).
- Job losses during the recession made existing employment gaps even worse. The employment declines for those with HS and AA degrees were 16 and 11 percent, respectively, compared with 7 percent for those with a BA degree.
- The comparatively high employment rate of recent college graduates was not driven by a sharp increase in those settling for lesser jobs or lower wages.
- The share of non-working graduates seeking further education did not markedly change during the recession.
- Out-of-work college graduates were able to find jobs during the downturn with more success than their less-educated counterparts.
- The proportion of BA degree-holders who transitioned from being excluded from the labor market (i.e., not working or in school) to employment barely changed during the recession.
- In contrast, the proportions of HS and AA graduates who found employment declined significantly with the recession—by approximately 10 percent for those with AA degrees and 8 percent for those with HS degrees.