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Economic News Release
CPS CPS Program Links

College Enrollment and Work Activity of Recent High School and College Graduates Technical Note

Technical Note

The estimates in this news release were obtained from a supplement to the October Current
Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of about 60,000 eligible households that
provides information on the labor force, employment, and unemployment for the nation.
The CPS is conducted monthly for the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the U.S. Census
Bureau. Data in this news release relate to the school enrollment status of people in
the civilian noninstitutional population in the calendar week that includes the 12th
of October. Data about recent high school graduates and dropouts and the enrollment
status of youth refer to people 16 to 24 years of age. Data about recent associate
degree recipients and college graduates refer to people 20 to 29 years of age.

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Definitions of the principal terms used in this news release are described briefly 

School enrollment. Respondents were asked whether they were currently enrolled in
a regular school, including day or night school in any type of public, parochial,
or other private school. Regular schooling is that which may advance a person
toward a high school diploma or a college, university, or professional degree. Such
schools include elementary schools, junior or senior high schools, and colleges and

Other schooling, including trade schools; on-the-job training; and courses that do
not require physical presence in school, such as correspondence courses or other
courses of independent study, is included only if the credits granted count
towards promotion in regular school.

Full-time and part-time enrollment in college. College  students  are  classified
as  attending  full time if they were taking 12 hours of classes or more (or 9 
hours of graduate classes) during an average school week and as part time if they
were taking fewer hours.

High school graduation status. People who were not enrolled in school at the 
time of the survey were asked whether they had graduated from high school. Those
who had graduated were asked when they completed their high school education. 
People who had not graduated, that is, school dropouts, were asked when they
last attended a regular school. Those who were enrolled in college at the time 
of the survey also were asked when they graduated from high school.

Recent high school graduates. People age 16 to 24 who completed high school in
the calendar year of the survey (January through October) are recent high school

Recent high school dropouts. People age 16 to 24 who were not enrolled in 
school at the time of the survey, attended school a year earlier, and did not 
have a high school diploma are recent dropouts.

Recent college graduates. People age 20 to 29 who completed a bachelor's 
degree or an advanced degree--that is, a master's, professional (such as law or
medicine), or doctoral degree--in the calendar year of the survey (January 
through October) are recent college graduates. 

Recent associate degree recipients. People age 20 to 29 who completed an 
associate degree (either an academic program or a vocational program) in the 
calendar year of the survey (January through October) are recent associate 
degree recipients. Associate degrees in academic programs are primarily in the
arts and sciences and may be transferable to a bachelor's degree program, 
while associate degrees in vocational programs prepare graduates for a specific

Reliability of the estimates

Statistics based on the CPS are subject to both sampling and nonsampling 
error. When a sample, rather than the entire population, is surveyed, there is
a chance that the sample estimates may differ from the true population values
they represent. The component of this difference that occurs because samples 
differ by chance is known as sampling error, and its variability is measured
by the standard error of the estimate. There is about a 90-percent chance, or
level of confidence, that an estimate based on a sample will differ by no 
more than 1.6 standard errors from the true population value because of 
sampling error. BLS analyses are generally conducted at the 90-percent level
of confidence.

The CPS data also are affected by nonsampling error. Nonsampling error can 
occur for many reasons, including the failure to sample a segment of the 
population, inability to obtain information for all respondents in the 
sample, inability or unwillingness of respondents to provide correct 
information, and errors made in the collection or processing of the data.

Additional information about the reliability of data from the CPS and 
estimating standard errors is available at

Last Modified Date: April 23, 2024