College Enrollment and Work Activity of Recent High School and College Graduates Technical Note
Last Modified Date: April 27, 2021
The estimates in this 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 release relate to the school enrollment status of persons 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 persons 16 to 24 years of age. Data about recent associate
degree recipients and college graduates refer to persons 20 to 29 years of age.
Updated population controls for the CPS are introduced annually with the release of
January data. Additional information about population controls is available on the
BLS website at www.bls.gov/cps/documentation.htm#pop.
Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals
upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.
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 www.bls.gov/cps/documentation.htm#reliability.
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
High school graduation status. Persons 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. Persons 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. Persons 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. Persons 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. Persons 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. Persons 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 occupation.