Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
(BLS) suggest that students who drop out of high school
are more likely than high school graduates to be unemployed
or to not participate in the labor force.
As the chart shows, 8 percent of individuals who
hadn't graduated from high school were unemployed during
the October when they were age 23. This compares
with 5 percent of high school graduates who had never
attended college and 3 percent of high school graduates
who had attended college but had not earned a bachelor's
degree. Among those who had earned a bachelor's
degree, 3 percent were unemployed during the October
when they were age 23.
The relationship between education and labor force
participation is even more pronounced. Thirty-two
percent of high school dropouts were not in the labor
force—that is, neither working nor looking for work—during the October when they were age 23. That's more
than twice the proportion of high school graduates who
were not in the labor force at age 23. And only 7 percent
of college graduates were not participating in the labor
These data come from the BLS National Longitudinal
Survey of Youth 1997, which has surveyed the
same group of respondents annually since 1997. Survey
results are representative of all U.S. men and women
born between the years 1980 and 1984 and living in the
United States when the survey began. Respondents were
age 23 in October during the years 2003 to 2008.
Recent data also show respondents' degree attainment,
past employment experiences, and more. For
details, visit online at www.bls.gov/nls/nlsy97.htm;
write to the BLS National Longitudinal Survey Program,
2 Massachusetts Ave., NE, Suite 4945, Washington, DC
20212; call (202) 691-7410; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.