Americans at Age 31: Labor Market Activity, Education and Partner Status Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Tuesday, April 17, 2018                         USDL-18-0588

Technical information: (202) 691-7410  *  nls_info@bls.gov  *  www.bls.gov/nls
Media contact:         (202) 691-5902  *  PressOffice@bls.gov


         LABOR MARKET ACTIVITY, EDUCATION, AND PARTNER STATUS AMONG AMERICANS
                       AT AGE 31: RESULTS FROM A LONGITUDINAL SURVEY


Americans born in the early 1980s held an average of 7.8 jobs from age 18 through age
30, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Individuals held more jobs at
younger ages, and the number of jobs held declined as individuals aged. Young adults
held an average of 4.6 jobs from ages 18 to 22 compared with 2.2 jobs from ages 27 to
30. While ages 18 to 30, women with more education held more jobs than women with less
education. Regardless of education, men held a similar number of jobs.

These findings are from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, a nationally
representative survey of about 9,000 men and women who were born during the years
1980 to 1984. These respondents were ages 12 to 17 when first interviewed in 1997
and ages 30 to 36 when interviewed for the 17th time in 2015-16. The survey provides
information on work and nonwork experiences, training, schooling, income, assets, and
other characteristics. The information provided by respondents is representative of
all men and women born in the early 1980s and living in the United States when the
survey began in 1997.

This release focuses on the educational attainment, employment experiences, and partner
status of these individuals from their 18th birthday until they turned 31. Highlights
from the longitudinal survey include:

   --At their 25th birthday, 28 percent of women had received a bachelor's degree
     and higher, compared with 21 percent of men. By age 31, almost 36 percent of
     women held a bachelor's degree and higher, compared with 28 percent of men.
     Seventy-four percent of women had at least attended some college by age 31
     compared with 65 percent of men. (See table 1.)

   --These individuals held an average of 7.8 jobs from ages 18 through 30, with
     over half of these jobs being held between the ages of 18 and 22. (See
     table 2.)

   --Fifty-eight percent of jobs started while ages 18 to 24 ended in less than
     a year, compared with 33 percent of jobs started while ages 25 to 30. In
     this older age range, job duration is significantly longer for those with
     more education. Of jobs started while 25 to 30 years of age, 45 percent of
     those started by individuals with less than a high school education lasted
     less than 1 year compared to 27 percent for individuals with a bachelor's 
     degree and higher. (See table 3.)

   --Women with less than a high school diploma were employed an average of
     40 percent of weeks from ages 18 to 30, while men with less than a high
     school diploma were employed 64 percent of weeks. Among individuals with
     a bachelor's degree and higher, women were employed an average of 80
     percent of weeks, while men were employed 78 percent of weeks. (See
     table 4.)

   --Individuals were employed for an average of 74 percent of weeks from ages
     18 to 30. This varied across age brackets: from ages 18 to 22 individuals
     were employed 68 percent of weeks, from ages 23 to 26 and from ages 27 to
     30 individuals were employed 78 percent of weeks. (See table 5.)

   --At the time of their 31st birthday, 45 percent of individuals were married,
     19 percent were cohabiting, and 37 percent were single. The percent of
     individuals who were married varied by education; those with higher levels
     of education were more likely to be married and less likely to be cohabiting
     than those with lower levels of education. (See table 6.)

   --Men who were single at age 31 were employed 70 percent of the weeks from
     ages 18 to 30, compared with 83 percent for those who were married and
     77 percent for those who were cohabiting. The percentage of weeks employed
     did not vary substantially by partner status for women. (See table 7.)

Educational Attainment at Age 31

At 31 years of age, 32 percent of individuals had received a bachelor's degree and
higher while 38 percent had attended some college or received an associate degree.
Twenty-four percent had a high school diploma or General Education Development (GED)
credential and no further schooling. (See table 1.)

Women were more likely than men to have received a bachelor's degree by age 25 and
this gap did not significantly decrease by age 31. Twenty-one percent of men had
earned a bachelor's degree by age 25, compared with 28 percent of women. By 31 years
of age, 28 percent of men had earned a bachelor's degree compared to 36 percent of
women. In total, 65 percent of men had either attended some college or received a
bachelor's degree, compared with 74 percent of women. In addition to being more
likely to attend college, women were more likely to have finished their college
degree. Of the 74 percent of women who started college, 48 percent received a
bachelor's degree by age 31. In comparison, of the 65 percent of men who started
college, 43 percent had received a bachelor's degree.

At age 31, there was a large difference in educational attainment among racial and
ethnic groups. Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics or Latinos were more likely than
Whites to have dropped out of high school. In comparison, Whites were more likely
to have ever attended college (72 percent of Whites, compared to 62 percent of
Blacks and 60 percent of Hispanics or Latinos) and nearly twice as likely to have
graduated and received a bachelor's degree by this age. Thirty-six percent of
Whites had received a bachelor's degree at age 31, compared with 19 percent of
both Blacks and Hispanics or Latinos.

Within each racial and ethnic group examined, women were more likely to have a
bachelor's degree than men. White women were more likely than White men to have
received a bachelor's degree (40 percent versus 32 percent), Black women were more
likely than Black men (23 percent versus 14 percent), and Hispanic or Latino women
were more likely than Hispanic or Latino men (21 percent versus 17 percent).

Employment Experiences from Age 18 through Age 30

Americans born in 1980-84 held an average of 7.8 jobs from ages 18 through 30, with
over half of these jobs held from ages 18 to 22. Men held an average of 7.7 jobs and
women held an average of 7.9 jobs. Women at higher levels of educational attainment
held more jobs than women at lower levels. Women with a bachelor's degree held 8.4
jobs from ages 18 through 30, compared with 6.2 jobs for female high school dropouts.
Men held a similar number of jobs regardless of their level of educational attainment.
Men with a bachelor's degree held 7.5 jobs from ages 18 through 30, compared to 7.5
jobs for male high school dropouts and 7.6 jobs for high school graduates. (See
table 2.) In this news release, a job is defined as a period of work, including gaps,
with a particular employer. (See the Technical Note for additional information on the
definition of a job.)

Examining employment experiences by smaller age brackets shows individuals held fewer
jobs in each subsequent age bracket. Individuals held an average of 4.6 jobs in the
5-year period from ages 18 to 22. The number of jobs individuals held dropped to 2.9
in the 4-year period from ages 23 to 26, and then dropped further to 2.2 in the 4-year
period from ages 27 to 30. The pattern of individuals holding fewer jobs as they aged
was similar across all sexes, racial and ethnic groups, and levels of educational
attainment.

Duration of Employment Relationships

The length of time a worker remains with an employer increased with the age at which
the worker began the job. Of the jobs that workers began when they were 18 to 24 years
of age, 58 percent of those jobs ended in less than a year and 91 percent ended in 
less than 6 years. Among jobs started by 25 to 30 year olds, 33 percent ended in less
than a year, and 61 percent ended in less than 6 years. Job duration is also related
to education. Sixty-five percent of jobs started by high school dropouts while age
18 to 24 ended within a year, compared to 55 percent of jobs started by those with a
bachelor's degree. (See table 3.)

Of all jobs started by those with less than a high school diploma when they were 25 to
30 years of age, 45 percent ended in less than a year and 73 percent ended in less than
6 years, while only 27 percent of jobs started by those with a bachelor's degree ended
under 1 year and 56 percent ended in less than 6 years.

Percent of Weeks Employed, Unemployed, and Not in the Labor Force

On average, individuals born in 1980-84 were employed during 74 percent of all the 
weeks from age 18 through age 30, unemployed--that is, without a job but seeking
work-- 6 percent of the weeks, and not in the labor force--that is, neither working
nor seeking work--20 percent of the weeks. (See table 4.)

As a whole, individuals with higher levels of educational attainment were employed
for a higher percentage of weeks and unemployed for a lower percentage of weeks than
individuals with lower levels of education. The percentage of weeks not in the labor
force generally decreased with an individual's level of educational attainment.

Men were more active in the labor market than women from ages 18 to 30. As a whole,
they spent less time not in the labor force than women (16 percent versus 23 percent)
and more time employed (77 percent versus 71 percent). This relationship held at all
levels of educational attainment except among those with a bachelor's degree. Women
with a bachelor's degree and higher spent a larger proportion of weeks employed than
did similarly educated men (80 percent versus 78 percent) and less time not in the
labor force (17 percent versus 19 percent).

Employment gaps existed between racial and ethnic groups. On average, Whites were
employed during 77 percent of the weeks that occurred from age 18 through age 30,
Hispanics or Latinos were employed during 73 percent of the weeks, and Blacks were
employed during 64 percent of the weeks.

The employment gap between Whites and Blacks is more pronounced at lower levels of
educational attainment. White high school dropouts spent 57 percent of weeks employed
from ages 18 through 30, while Black dropouts spent 38 percent of weeks employed
during these ages. The gap is smaller among those who held a bachelor's degree. White
college graduates spent 80 percent of weeks employed, while Black college graduates
spent 77 percent of weeks employed.

The employment gap between Hispanics or Latinos and Blacks is also more pronounced at
lower levels of educational attainment. Hispanic or Latino dropouts spent 59 percent
of weeks employed from ages 18 through 30, while Black dropouts spent 38 percent of
weeks employed during these ages. Hispanic or Latino and Black college graduates spent
a similar percentage of weeks employed (78 percent versus 77 percent).

Individuals spent 68 percent of weeks employed from ages 18 to 22, 78 percent of weeks
employed from ages 23 to 26, and 78 percent of weeks employed from ages 27 to 30. Men 
spent a higher percentage of weeks employed in each subsequent age bracket, but this
was not the case for women. Men spent 69 percent of weeks employed from ages 18 to 22;
this increased to 81 percent of weeks from ages 23 to 26 and held nearly constant at
82 percent from ages 27 to 30. Women spent 67 percent of weeks employed from ages 18
to 22; this increased to 75 percent of weeks from ages 23 to 26, but decreased slightly
to 73 percent from ages 27 to 30. Men were employed a higher percentage of weeks than
women within all age brackets. (See table 5.)

The employment gap between racial and ethnic groups also existed within each age bracket
analyzed. Within all age brackets, Whites were employed a higher percentage of weeks
than both Blacks and Hispanics or Latinos, and Hispanics or Latinos were employed a
higher percentage of weeks than Blacks.

As these individuals aged, men spent less time out of the labor force. Men spent 24
percent of weeks not in the labor force from 18 to 22 years of age, 12 percent of weeks
from ages 23 to 26, and 11 percent from ages 27 to 30. Women had a similar but less
pronounced trend, spending 27 percent of weeks out of the labor force from ages 18 to
22, but 20 percent and 21 percent of weeks out of the labor force at ages 23 to 26 and
ages 27 to 30, respectively. At older ages, women were nearly twice as likely as men
to not be in the labor force.

Partner Status and Employment Experiences

At 25 years of age, 27 percent of Americans born during 1980-84 were married, 21 percent
were unmarried and living with a partner, and 53 percent were single, that is, not
married and not living with a partner. Comparatively, at 31 years of age, 45 percent
were married, 19 percent were cohabiting, and 37 percent were single. (See table 6.) 

At age 31, those with higher levels of education were more likely to be married and less
likely to be cohabiting than those with lower levels of education. At the time of their
31st birthday, 34 percent of high school dropouts, 40 percent of high school graduates
with no college, 43 percent of individuals with some college or an associate degree, and
54 percent of college graduates were married. Twenty-nine percent of those with less than
a high school degree were cohabiting, compared with only 13 percent of those with a
bachelor's degree and higher.

Partner status varied greatly by race and ethnicity. Blacks were more likely to be single
than either Whites or Hispanics or Latinos. At 31 years of age, 58 percent of Blacks
were single, compared with 31 percent of Whites and 37 percent of Hispanics or Latinos.
Blacks were also significantly less likely to be married than either Whites or Hispanics
or Latinos (25 percent versus 51 percent and 41 percent, respectively).

At both ages 25 and 31, women were significantly more likely to be married and less
likely to be single than men. At age 31, 49 percent of women were married, 32 percent
were single, and 18 percent were cohabiting, while 41 percent of men were married,
41 percent were single, and 19 percent were cohabiting. Women were also more likely
to be married than men at each level of educational attainment.

Compared with individuals who were single at age 31, those who were married worked more
weeks from ages 18 to 30, spent fewer weeks unemployed, and spent fewer weeks not in
the labor force. From ages 18 to 30, single individuals spent 70 percent of weeks
employed, 8 percent of weeks unemployed, and 22 percent of weeks not in the labor force,
while those who were married spent 78 percent of weeks employed, 4 percent of weeks
unemployed, and 18 percent of weeks not in the labor force. Cohabiting individuals
spent 74 percent of weeks employed, 8 percent of weeks unemployed, and 19 percent of
weeks not in the labor force. (See table 7.)

Men accounted for most of the variation in employment experiences by partner status.
Married men worked more weeks, were unemployed fewer weeks, and were less likely to
be not in the labor force than either single or cohabiting men. Married men spent 83
percent of weeks employed, compared with 70 percent for single men and 77 percent for
cohabiting men. They spent less than 5 percent of weeks unemployed, compared with 8
percent for single men and 9 percent for cohabiting men. Married men spent 12 percent
of weeks out of the labor force, compared with 21 percent for single men and 15 percent
for cohabiting men. In contrast, there were limited differences in the employment
experiences of women by partner status. Married women were slightly more likely to be
employed than non-married women (73 percent versus 70 percent for both single and
cohabiting women) and were less likely to be unemployed than either single or
cohabiting women (4 percent versus 8 percent and 7 percent, respectively).

Married individuals also worked more weeks than single individuals when comparing within
racial and ethnic groups. Married Whites spent a higher percentage of weeks employed than
single Whites (79 percent versus 74 percent), married Blacks spent a higher percentage of
weeks employed than single Blacks (71 percent versus 62 percent), and married Hispanics
or Latinos spent a higher percentage of weeks employed than single Hispanics or Latinos
(76 percent versus 71 percent).



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Last Modified Date: April 17, 2018