Advanced Degree Holders Tell a Story

In October 2020, the percentage of high-school graduates enrolled in colleges and universities had fallen to 62.7%, from October 2019’s 66.2%, while the percentage of 2020 college graduates aged 20 to 29 who were employed fell to 67.3% from the prior year’s 76%, declines the Bureau of Labor Statistics attributes to the effects of the pandemic.

Among those who recently received an Associate’s Degree, 59.2% overall are employed, and 15.8% unemployed. Among men, however, 55.2% are employed and 26.5% unemployed, while among women, 61.4% are employed and just 9.1% unemployed, with the labor force participation rate for women, 67.6%, seven percentage points lower than it is for men.

For those with Bachelor’s degrees, 67.3% are currently employed, including 67.6% of men, and 67.1% of women, with a smaller disparity in unemployment, 16.1% for men, and 10.2% among women.

Among those with advanced degrees the situation is a bit different. Overall, 74.7% are employed, including 68.5% of men, and 80.1% of women (which is about the participation rate for men with BAs), with unemployment rates running at 17.8% for men, compared to 12.6% overall, and 8.4% for women. And for this tranche, the percentage of women not in the labor force is one point below the overall 14%, while that of men is a few points above. Among those with Associate’s degrees, the percentage of women out of the force is 7 points above that of men, in turn 5 points below the overall, and for those with BAs, the rate for women is 5 points above that of men, and two points above the total.

As a point of comparison, in October 2020 the overall unemployment rate was 6.9% overall, 6.7% for men over 20, slightly higher for those over 16, 6.5% for women over twenty, and 6.7% for those over 16.
Over the years many have commented that one way to close the gender wage gap is for more women to obtain advanced degrees, and although wage data is not included in the BLS release, the relative shares employed and in the labor force seem to underscore that point.