NCES Report Looks At Young Adults Over Three Decades

The data collected over the period of thirty years seeks to determine how decisions made by people in the two year period after high school have changed.

The National Center of Education Statistics, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, has released a report that follows the trends among young adults over the last three decades. The report looks at the choices made by young Americans in the two years since they left high school, specifically in the areas of post-secondary education, employment, job selection, and marriage/family. The report looks at the data collected about people in the target range in the years 1972, 1980, 1992, and 2006.

The researchers found that over the last thirty years, kids leaving high school have become ore likely to enroll in college and continue their education than enter the job market. In 1974, only 40% of high school seniors were pursuing a degree in a two-year or four-year college two years after graduation, while 48% were working and receiving a salary. In 2006, more than 60% were enrolled in degree or training programs, while only 28% were in some kind of salaried employment.

The above trend was most prevalent in the time periods between 1972 and 1982, and then subsequently 1982 and 1994. There was no significant change in percentages between those seeking a college degree after high school in 1994 and 2006.

There was a large discrepancy between the number of women who were neither enrolled in a college program nor employed and men who weren’t pursuing a degree nor entering the job market in the first set of collected data. In 1974, 18% of women were neither employed nor in school two years after high school vs. 6% of men. The gap shrank over the following 30 years, with the latest numbers showing no appreciable difference between the sexes.

In comparing the four time points, all four major race/ethnicity groups saw increases in postsecondary enrollment 2 years after high school. Comparing 1974 with 2006, enrollment went from 69 percent to 78 percent for Asians, from 34 percent to 53 percent for Blacks, from 32 percent to 50 percent for Hispanics, and from 41 percent to 67 percent for Whites.

Even among those who are mainly involved with post-secondary education two years on, over 90% held some kind of a job over those two years. The number hadn’t significantly changed in any of the periods covered in the study.

When comparing 1974 with 2006, the rates of ever attending any postsecondary institution within 2 years of high school graduation were not measurably different for Asians, but increased for Blacks (61 percent to 72 percent), Hispanics (60 percent to 68 percent), and Whites (65 percent to 81 percent).

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