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

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 percent.

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 counterparts.

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.
COPYRIGHT 1985 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Author:Young, Anne McDougall
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Feb 1, 1985
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