One-fourth of the adult labor force are college graduates Essay

Between 1983 and 1984, the number of 25- to 64-year-old collegegraduates in the labor force rose by a million–the third consecutiveannual increase of this magnitude. Graduates continued to registerhigher rates of labor force participation, markedly lower unemploymentrates, and larger shares of managerial and professional specialty jobsthan other workers. Data from the March 1984 Current Population Surveyshow that college graduates now account for one-fourth of all adultworkers. Moreover, persons who have completed at least 1 year ofcollege outnumber those who left school directly after high schoolgraduation. (See table 1.) Labor force. Although population increases account for the bulk ofthe over-the-year rise in the college educated work force, a higherlabor force participation rate for female graduates also contributed.

Women thus comprised three-fifths of the increase and now represent 38percent of all adult workers with 4 years or more of college, comparedwith 32 percent in 1970. Over this period, the labor forceparticipation rate for female college graduates ages 25 to 64 rose from61 to 78 percent, while that for male graduates edged down from 96 to 95percent. The proportion of black college graduates in the labor forcecontinued to exceed that for white graduates, reflecting primarily thehigh participation rate of black women. As shown in table 2, blackfemale graduates who were married were much more likely than their whitecounterparts to be in the labor force, especially if they had children.Black female graduates were also more likely than white graduates tohave never married and were twice as likely to be divorced or separated.

The much larger proportion of black women in these marital status groupsand the high labor force participation rates characteristic of personsresponsible for their own support and that of others help account forthe higher participation rate of black graduates. Among men, white andblack college graduates had roughly comparable participation rates.Married Hispanic women who were college graduates were less likely to bein the labor force than either whites or blacks, but those who were notmarried matched the participation rates of the white and blackcounterparts. Unemployment. Unemployment rates of persons 25 to 64 declined overthe year for all educational attainment groups as the economic recoverycontinued. College graduates were about one-fifth as likely as thosewho had completed 1 to 3 years of high school and one-third as likely ashigh school graduates to be unemployed.

The inverse relationship ofunemployment rates and educational attainment has been a historicalpattern; moreover, college graduates are hit less hard by recessionsthan the other educational status groups. Occupations. A majority of workers in managerial and professionalspeciality occupations were college graduates. Within this broadcategory, the proportion of workers who had completed 4 years or more ofcollege was substantially higher in professional specialtyoccupations–81 percent for men and 72 percent for women–than inexecutive, administrative, and managerial occupations–52 percent formen and 35 percent for women.

(See table 3.) Although most workers in professional specialty occupationscontinue to end their formal education at the baccalaureate level,advanced degrees have increasingly become an expectation forprofessional status in many of the specific categories. In March 1984,about 45 percent of the adult men and 25 percent of the adult women inprofessional specialty jobs had completed 6 or more years of college.(See table 4.) There is some indication that the proportion of professional womenwith postgraduate work may increase in the future. For example, theproportion of all master’s, doctorates, and first professionaldegrees awarded to women rose from 33 percent in 1970-71 to 45 percent10 years later. Professional women are also slowly shifting from aconcentration in education and nursing occupations to some of the moretraditionally male strongholds, such as engineering, law, and the lifeand physical sciences.

In contrast to those in professional specialties, only about 5percent of the managerial workers had completed 5 years or more ofcollege and only 13 percent, 6 years or more. Younger workers weresomewhat more likely than older workers to have completed at least abachelor’s degree. It is expected that requirements for managersto complete advanced studies will increase as more technical expertiseand specialized knowledge are needed for such positions.

Two other occupational groups have comparatively high proportionsof workers with a college education–technical workers, both men andwomen, and male salesworkers. Technical workers usually assistprofessional specialty workers, and must have the educational backgroundto keep up with developments in their respective fields. Amongsalesworkers, men traditionally have dominated jobs in such areas asmanufacturing, financial management, and insurance, which depend onknowledge of engineering, money and banking, and underwriting, whereaswomen have remained concentrated in retail trade.

Although relatively few college graduates were employed in theother broad occupational categories, gains in the formal education ofyounger workers have raised the educational attainment levels in somemore specific service occupations. For instance, 17 percent of the maleprotective service workers under 45 years of age had completed 4 yearsof college, compared with only 8 percent of those over 45. Thisdifference underscores the increasing emphasis in many policedepartments on the professional training of their officers. In addition,recent growth in such service industries as hotels, gyms and spas, andrecreational services has contributed to the rising proportion ofyounger college graduates in personal service jobs.


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