Over sixty-five percent of the high school graduating class of 2002 were enrolled in colleges or universities in the fall

June 26, 2003

Information on school enrollment and the work activity of high school graduates comes from an October supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a monthly nationwide survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment, unemployment, earnings, demographics, and other characteristics of the civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over.

Recent High School Graduates and Dropouts

Among the 2.8 million high school graduates in 2002, 1.8 million (65.2 per- cent) were enrolled in college the following October. Young men represented 50.5 percent of high school graduates in 2002, but accounted for less than half of those who enrolled in college. The college enrollment rate of young women (68.4 percent) exceeded that for young men (62.1 percent). The percent- age of women attending college following high school graduation has exceeded that of men in almost every year since 1988. White graduates continued to enroll in college in greater proportions (66.7 percent) than either black (58.7 percent) or Hispanic graduates (53.5 percent).

Over 90 percent of recent high school graduates enrolled in college attended full time. Of these full-time students, 42.6 percent were employed or looking for work in October 2002, compared with 75.7 percent of part-time college students. Similarly, a much smaller proportion of students attending 4-year institutions (39.2 percent) participated in the labor force than students attending 2-year schools (58.0 percent).

Among recent high school graduates not enrolled in college in the fall, 79.7 percent were in the labor force in October 2002. The unemployment rate for this group was 16.9 percent.

Between October 2001 and October 2002, about 400,000 persons dropped out of high school. Among these high school dropouts, two-thirds were in the labor force in October 2002. The unemployment rate for this group was 29.8percent–almost 13 percentage points higher than the unemployment rate for recent high school graduates who were not enrolled in college.

Youth Enrolled in School

Over half of the nation’s 35.5 million 16- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in school in October 2002. Over 9 million of these youth were enrolled in high school, and over 10 million attended college. College students were much more likely to work or look for work than were high school students (56.8 percent and 34.7 percent, respectively). The unemployment rate for college students was 7.5 percent–almost half the rate (14.5 percent) for high school students. Full-time college students were less likely to be in the labor force than part-time students, 51.8 percent versus 84.5 percent. About 3 out of 5 white and Hispanic college students were in the labor force, compared with less than half of black students. Among high school students, whites (38.7 percent) were more likely to participate in the labor force than either blacks (20.5 percent) or Hispanics (23.1 percent).

Out-of-School Youth

Four out of five of the 16- to 24-year-olds not enrolled in school were in the labor force in October 2002. The labor force participation rate for men in this group was 88.5 percent, compared with 74.0 percent for women. This disparity in labor force activity between young men and women appeared at all educational levels, although it was greatest among those with less than a high school diploma. Black and Hispanic out-of-school youth had lower labor force participation rates than whites. Also, the unemployment rate for black out-of-school youth (25.0 percent) was double the rate for Hispanic youth (12.4 percent) and nearly two and one half times the rate for white youth (10.1 percent).