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

Between 1983 and 1984, the number of 25- to 64-year-old college
graduates in the labor force rose by a million–the third consecutive
annual increase of this magnitude. Graduates continued to register
higher rates of labor force participation, markedly lower unemployment
rates, and larger shares of managerial and professional specialty jobs
than other workers. Data from the March 1984 Current Population Survey
show that college graduates now account for one-fourth of all adult
workers. Moreover, persons who have completed at least 1 year of
college outnumber those who left school directly after high school
graduation. (See table 1.)

Labor force. Although population increases account for the bulk of
the over-the-year rise in the college educated work force, a higher
labor force participation rate for female graduates also contributed.
Women thus comprised three-fifths of the increase and now represent 38
percent of all adult workers with 4 years or more of college, compared
with 32 percent in 1970. Over this period, the labor force
participation rate for female college graduates ages 25 to 64 rose from
61 to 78 percent, while that for male graduates edged down from 96 to 95

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The proportion of black college graduates in the labor force
continued to exceed that for white graduates, reflecting primarily the
high participation rate of black women. As shown in table 2, black
female graduates who were married were much more likely than their white
counterparts to be in the labor force, especially if they had children.
Black female graduates were also more likely than white graduates to
have never married and were twice as likely to be divorced or separated.
The much larger proportion of black women in these marital status groups
and the high labor force participation rates characteristic of persons
responsible for their own support and that of others help account for
the higher participation rate of black graduates. Among men, white and
black college graduates had roughly comparable participation rates.
Married Hispanic women who were college graduates were less likely to be
in the labor force than either whites or blacks, but those who were not
married matched the participation rates of the white and black

Unemployment. Unemployment rates of persons 25 to 64 declined over
the year for all educational attainment groups as the economic recovery
continued. College graduates were about one-fifth as likely as those
who had completed 1 to 3 years of high school and one-third as likely as
high school graduates to be unemployed. The inverse relationship of
unemployment rates and educational attainment has been a historical
pattern; moreover, college graduates are hit less hard by recessions
than the other educational status groups.

Occupations. A majority of workers in managerial and professional
speciality occupations were college graduates. Within this broad
category, the proportion of workers who had completed 4 years or more of
college was substantially higher in professional specialty
occupations–81 percent for men and 72 percent for women–than in
executive, administrative, and managerial occupations–52 percent for
men and 35 percent for women. (See table 3.)

Although most workers in professional specialty occupations
continue to end their formal education at the baccalaureate level,
advanced degrees have increasingly become an expectation for
professional status in many of the specific categories. In March 1984,
about 45 percent of the adult men and 25 percent of the adult women in
professional specialty jobs had completed 6 or more years of college.
(See table 4.)

There is some indication that the proportion of professional women
with postgraduate work may increase in the future. For example, the
proportion of all master’s, doctorates, and first professional
degrees awarded to women rose from 33 percent in 1970-71 to 45 percent
10 years later. Professional women are also slowly shifting from a
concentration in education and nursing occupations to some of the more
traditionally male strongholds, such as engineering, law, and the life
and physical sciences.

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

Two other occupational groups have comparatively high proportions
of workers with a college education–technical workers, both men and
women, and male salesworkers. Technical workers usually assist
professional specialty workers, and must have the educational background
to keep up with developments in their respective fields. Among
salesworkers, men traditionally have dominated jobs in such areas as
manufacturing, financial management, and insurance, which depend on
knowledge of engineering, money and banking, and underwriting, whereas
women have remained concentrated in retail trade.

Although relatively few college graduates were employed in the
other broad occupational categories, gains in the formal education of
younger workers have raised the educational attainment levels in some
more specific service occupations. For instance, 17 percent of the male
protective service workers under 45 years of age had completed 4 years
of college, compared with only 8 percent of those over 45. This
difference underscores the increasing emphasis in many police
departments on the professional training of their officers. In addition,
recent growth in such service industries as hotels, gyms and spas, and
recreational services has contributed to the rising proportion of
younger college graduates in personal service jobs.


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