WHAT DOES THE job market in the U.S. look like for recent college graduates
with four-year degrees? A May report from the Economic Policy
Institute (EPI), a think tank based in Washington, D.C., tracks the
economic prospects of these individuals as they start their careers.
It was authored by senior economist Elise Gould and research assistants
Zane Mokhiber and Julia Wolfe.
According to the report, fewer than one-fifth of adults between
the ages of 21 and 24 are college graduates. Of this group:
- 57.4 percent are women.
- Two-thirds are white.
- 10 percent are underemployed.
Between 1989 and 2019, wage growth for young college graduates
has been a lackluster 13.9 percent across all groups, but there have been
variances by demographic. For instance, there is now a 12.9 percent gap
between men’s and women’s wages, while young black college graduates
are paid, on average, 12. 2 percent less than their white counterparts.
The report also tracks the percentages of recent graduates who
are employed only, employed and enrolled in additional schooling,
enrolled only, or idled (neither working nor in school). Most of the individuals
in this group are enrolled only, although the number of those
who are idled has risen slightly between 1989 and 2019.
While the unemployment rate for white graduates has essentially
recovered to pre-recession levels, that’s not true for black, Hispanic,
and Asian American/Pacific Islander
individuals; in fact, the gaps between
white graduates and other groups remain
larger than they were in 2000.
According to the authors of the
report, “While by many measures the
labor market for young graduates is now
almost—or perhaps even fully—back to
where it was before the recession, the
economy of 2007 represents a low bar
for economic opportunity. We should
instead be striving for the high-pressure
economy of the late 1990s and 2000,
in which an extended period of labor
market strength translated into better
opportunities for workers across the
board. The economy needs to continue
on track toward full employment for
economic growth to reach all corners
of the labor market.”
Download the full report.