Some improvement in the jobs market has occurred recently but if you’re a person with only a high school diploma your chances for a job and a good wage are poor. The Hamilton Project has been tracking employment and wage trends for this group as the following figure depicts.
In the context of the Great Recession and an economy desiring higher job skills less-educated workers have lower job prospects and earnings than better educated workers. As the above graph reveals the median high school graduate has lower earnings today than in the early 1970s, after adjusting for inflation. In addition, employment rates have fallen from a high of 81 percent in 1987 to 71 percent in 2010.
The adverse employment and earning experience of males with only a high school diploma during the past several decades is even more striking.
Since 1970 the nearly perfect monotonic decline in both male employment and earnings has resulted in employment rate for male high school graduates falling from 96 percent in 1970 to only 75 percent in 2010 with a simultaneous decline in median annual earnings, falling from approximately $53,000 in 1970 to $26,000 in 2010.
The contrast in employment outcomes associated with education and gender is clearly demonstrated in the following figure by Greenstone and Looney (2010).
One important observation from the above graph is falling employment opportunities for men with only a high school diploma occurred even when economic times were good. Also, employment gains by women were offset by falling male employment.
Research that I have completed, utilizing data from Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS-USA) files, indicates that individuals with only a high school diploma have less than a 5 percent probability of earning an above median income.
In response to these disturbing trends the authors of the above study propose,
… two general principles that can guide policy-makers in improving the performance of training programs: (1) training funds should be directed to programs with a track record of success in improving earnings for the specific target population and to those workers who can benefit the most from those programs; and (2) training programs should directly engage employer and industry partners, or actively guide students to career-specific training.
- Odds and Probabilities of Making A Good Living or Better
- How Do Endowments and Return on Those Endowments Impact Personal Income?
- The Educational Attainment Crisis of Males
- Young College Grads and Real Lifetime Earnings
- Education’s Key Role in Economic Growth
Greenstone, Michael and Looney, Adam. (2010). The Problem with Men: A Look at Long-Term, Employment. The Hamilton Project at Brookings. http://www.hamiltonproject.org/files/downloads_and_links/1110_jobs_men.pdf
Greenstone, Michael and Looney, Adam. (2012). What Is Happening to America’s Less-Skilled Workers? The Importance of Education and Training in Today’s Economy. The Hamilton Project at Brookings. http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2011/1202_jobs_greenstone_looney.aspx