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ERIC Number: ED587810
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2018-Jun-14
Pages: 26
Abstractor: ERIC
Class of 2018: High School Edition
Gould, Elise; Mokhiber, Zane; Wolfe, Julia
Economic Policy Institute
This study analyzes data on recent young high school graduates (ages 18-21) to learn about the Class of 2018's economic prospects as they start their careers. The report begins by providing a snapshot of the educational attainment of all young adults in this age group (not just graduates) and of all working-age adults (ages 18-64) to provide context and get a sense of these graduates' likely future educational prospects. The second section looks specifically at those in this age group who have graduated from high school to learn what shares of these young adults are now enrolled in further schooling, employed, both, or neither. The third section narrows the focus to only those graduates who are not enrolled in further schooling to find out how they are faring in the labor market--specifically, looking at their unemployment and underemployment rates. The fourth section analyzes the wages of those who are employed (and not enrolled in further schooling), making comparisons with wages in earlier periods as well as looking at important differences by gender and race/ethnicity. The fifth, and final section discusses the challenges facing those students who wish to pursue a college degree: stagnating family incomes, the rising price of college and resulting student loan debt, uncertain future wage prospects, and the complicating role of for-profit colleges. Key findings detailed in this report include: (1) While 44.1 percent of all 18- to 21-year-olds have some college education, the vast majority (68.2 percent) of the overall working-age population (ages 18-64) do not have a four-year college degree; (2) The share of young high school graduates who are employed only (not enrolled in further schooling) has declined significantly since 1990, while the share who are enrolled only (and not employed) has increased; (3) Roughly one in eight young high school graduates not enrolled in further schooling are unemployed; (4) The underemployment rate for high school graduates in this age group currently sits at 25.0 percent, slightly above where it was in 2007; (5) From 1990 to 2018, average wages for young high school graduates grew only 9.7 percent in total; and (6) As incomes stagnate and the price of college increases, students must increasingly rely on loans to finance their education, further complicating the decision to enroll in college. While there may be many reasons someone might choose to enter the labor force after high school rather than attend college, college should at least be a viable option; a person's economic resources should not be the determining factor in whether they get to go to college. But, as things stand, the prospect of staggering debt may discourage students from less wealthy families from enrolling in further education or prevent them from completing a degree. Additional policies that will improve young high school graduates'--and all workers'--job quality include raising the minimum wage; protecting workers from wage theft; providing undocumented workers with a path to citizenship (which will give these workers, as well as authorized workers in similar fields, more leverage to command higher pay); and ending discriminatory practices that contribute to race and gender inequities.
Economic Policy Institute. 1333 H Street NW Suite 300 East Tower, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: 202-775-8810; Fax: 202-775-0819; e-mail: Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Numerical/Quantitative Data
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Economic Policy Institute