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The Education of American Workers

Education And Poverty

In general, as individuals attain higher educational levels, the risk of living in poverty falls markedly. Of all those sixteen years of age and older in the labor force during 2002, those with less than a high school diploma had a much higher poverty rate (14.6%) than high school graduates (6.1%), according to the BLS in A Profile of the Working Poor, 2002 (September 2004). The lowest poverty rates were reported by workers with an associate degree (2.8%) or college degree (1.6%). (See Table 4.9.) According to A Profile of the Working Poor, 2003 (March 2005), the poverty rate for people who did not finish high school declined slightly in 2003 to 14.1%, although poverty among high school graduates remained virtually unchanged (6.2%). Holders of associate degrees experienced increased poverty in 2003 (3.2%), while college graduates continued to see minimal poverty (1.7%).

Historically, poverty rates are higher for black workers than for white workers at almost all educational levels. This trend held true in 2002. The poverty rates of black men with less than one year of high school (18%) or with college degrees (2.4%) were higher than poverty rates of white men with less than one year of high school (16.3%) or a college degree (1.3%). Although TABLE 4.8 Distribution of money income and median income of persons 25 years old and over, by educational attainment and sex, 2002 [CONTINUED] "Table 387. Distribution of Income and Median Income of Persons 25 Years Old and Over, by Highest Level of Educational Attainment and Sex: 2002," in Digest of Education Statistics, 2004, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2004, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d04/tables/dt04_387.asp (accessed January 10, 2006)poverty rates were similar among white men and white women at all education levels in 2002, the rates for women were higher than for men. Among black men and women there were marked differences in poverty rates, especially at the lower educational levels. The poverty rate for black women workers with less than a high school diploma (29.4%) was higher than for black men (17.6%), and among high school graduates, the poverty rate of black women (17.2%) was twice that of black men (8%). When taken together, Hispanic men and women, at 10.4%, tended to suffer poverty at a higher rate than Asians (4.6%) or whites (4.5%), but at a slightly lower rate than black workers (10.5%). Hispanic women with less than a high school diploma were in poverty at a rate of 18.4%, compared with Hispanic men at 16.5%. High school graduates of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity had a poverty rate of 8.4% overall, higher than the rate for whites (5.1%) or Asians (4.6%). (See Table 4.9.)

TABLE 4.8
Distribution of money income and median income of persons 25 years old and over, by educational attainment and sex, 2002 [CONTINUED]
Sex and income Total Less than 9th grade Some high school (no completion) High school completion (includes equivalency) College
Some college, no degree Associate's degree Bachelor's or higher degree
Total Bachelor's degree Master's degree Professional degree Doctor's degree
Note: Includes money income from all sources, including earnings, pensions, social security, investments, and public assistance. Excludes noncash benefits. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: "Table 387. Distribution of Income and Median Income of Persons 25 Years Old and Over, by Highest Level of Educational Attainment and Sex: 2002," in Digest of Education Statistics, 2004, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2004, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d04/tables/dt04_387.asp (accessed January 10, 2006)
Females, 25 years old and over (in thousands)
    Total 96,586 6,228 8,297 31,936 16,588 8,754 24,784 16,862 6,275 967 680
With income 60,002 3,316 1,628 18,457 11,311 6,529 18,760 12,484 4,960 770 545
Percentage distribution of females with income
Total annual income 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 99.8
    $1 to $4,999 or less 9.2 17.4 14.8 10.6 9.6 7.5 6.4 7.2 5.4 3.8 2.9
    $5,000 to $9,999 8.6 19.6 17.0 10.5 8.8 6.7 4.8 5.7 3.4 1.9 1.5
    $10,000 to $14,999 10.7 24.8 20.4 13.7 10.3 8.6 5.9 6.4 5.0 3.1 4.6
    $15,000 to $19,999 10.5 16.3 16.4 14.3 11.0 10.6 4.9 5.4 3.8 3.8 4.0
    $20,000 to $24,999 11.2 11.2 13.1 14.4 13.3 11.9 6.2 7.4 4.1 3.4 2.0
    $25,000 to $29,999 9.9 4.5 8.0 11.6 12.0 11.9 7.1 8.6 4.2 3.0 3.7
    $30,000 to $34,999 8.9 2.9 3.6 9.0 9.3 11.4 9.3 10.1 8.3 7.8 2.8
    $35,000 to $39,999 6.8 1.2 2.5 4.7 7.3 8.5 9.2 9.4 9.1 6.8 8.3
    $40,000 to $49,999 9.7 1.1 2.5 6.3 8.6 11.1 15.2 14.4 17.9 13.5 10.5
    $50,000 to $74,999 9.9 0.7 1.4 3.9 7.5 9.8 19.7 16.7 26.0 23.0 27.3
    $75,000 to $99,999 2.6 0.1 0.2 0.6 1.4 1.5 6.4 5.1 7.8 13.5 13.8
    $100,000 or more 2.0 0.0 0.2 0.5 1.0 0.6 5.0 3.7 5.2 16.5 18.5
Median income $24,879 $12,217 $14,302 $20,254 $23,476 $26,474 $37,308 $34,232 $42,301 $51,349 $55,674

In 2003, the total poverty rate was 5.3%, according to the BLS in A Profile of the Working Poor, 2003. However, the rate for those with less than a high school diploma was more than twice as high (14.1%), while the poverty rate among those with a college degree was only 1.7%. Among those with less than a high school diploma, the poverty rate for whites (12.7% overall; 12.1% for men and 13.9% for women) was markedly less than for blacks (22.4%; 16.9% for men and 28% for women), less than for Hispanics (17.2%; 16.3% for men and 19% for women), and only slightly less than for Asians (13%; 14.1% for men and 11.8% for women). A higher education continued to have beneficial effects on poverty status rates among all racial and ethnic groups: only 1.6% of college-educated whites, 1.9% of college-educated blacks, 3.6% of college-educated Hispanics, and 2.6% of college-educated Asians were in poverty in 2003.

FIGURE 4.1 Change in employment in the top 20 large-growth occupations that often require a master's, doctoral, or first professional degree, projected 2004–14 "Numeric Change in Employment in the Top 20 Large-Growth Occupations that Often Require a Master's, Doctoral, or First Professional Degree, Projected 2004–14," in "Occupational Employment," in Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Winter 2005–06, http://www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2005/winter/art02.pdf (accessed February 7, 2006)

TABLE 4.9 Poverty status of workers by educational attainment, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, and sex, 2002

TABLE 4.9
Poverty status of workers by educational attainment, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, and sex, 2002
[Numbers in thousands]
Educational attainment, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity Ratea
Total Men Women
    Total, 16 years and older 5.3 4.7 6.0
Less than a high school diploma 14.6 12.9 17.4
    Less than 1 year of high school 17.2 16.6 18.6
    1-3 years of high school 13.9 11.6 17.6
    4 years of high school, no diploma 10.8 9.0 13.6
High school graduates, no collegeb 6.1 5.2 7.2
Some college or associate degree 4.2 3.2 5.1
    Some college, no degree 4.8 3.5 6.2
    Associate degree 2.8 2.5 3.0
Bachelor's degree and higherc 1.6 1.5 1.7
White, 16 years and olderd 4.5 4.3 4.8
Less than a high school diploma 13.2 12.2 15.0
    Less than 1 year of high school 17.1 16.3 18.7
    1-3 years of high school 12.0 10.7 14.2
    4 years of high school, no diploma 7.5 6.4 9.4
High school graduates, no collegeb 5.1 4.7 5.5
Some college or associate degree 3.5 2.9 4.2
    Some college, no degree 4.1 3.2 5.0
    Associate degree 2.3 2.1 2.5
Bachelor's degree and higherc 1.4 1.3 1.5
Black or African American, 16 years and olderd 10.5 7.4 13.1
Less than a high school diploma 23.6 17.6 29.4
    Less than 1 year of high school 19.7 18.0 22.1
    1-3 years of high school 24.9 17.4 31.4
    4 years of high school, no diploma 22.5 18.1 27.5
High school graduates, no collegeb 12.6 8.0 17.2
Some college or associate degree 7.7 4.8 9.8
    Some college, no degree 8.2 4.6 11.1
    Associate degree 6.1 5.7 6.3
Bachelor's degree and higherc 2.2 2.4 2.1
Asian, 16 years and olderd 4.6 4.6 4.5
Less than a high school diploma 13.7 16.2 10.5
    Less than 1 year of high school 14.6 16.3 12.5
    1-3 years of high school 11.3 12.8 9.2
    4 years of high school, no diploma e e e
High school graduates, no collegeb 4.6 4.9 4.2
Some college or associate degree 5.5 4.3 6.7
    Some college, no degree 6.5 4.5 8.9
    Associate degree 3.3 3.9 2.8
Bachelor's degree and higherc 2.6 2.6 2.5

TABLE 4.9 Poverty status of workers by educational attainment, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, and sex, 2002 [CONTINUED] Adapted from "Table 3. People in the Labor Force for 27 Weeks or More: Poverty Status by Educational Attainment, Race, Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity, and Sex, 2002," in A Profile of the Working Poor, 2002, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2004, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswp2002.pdf (accessed January 9, 2006)

TABLE 4.9
Poverty status of workers by educational attainment, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, and sex, 2002 [CONTINUED]
[Numbers in thousands]
Educational attainment, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity Ratea
Total Men Women
aNumber below the poverty level as a percent of the total in the labor force for 27 weeks or more.
bIncludes persons with a high school diploma or equivalent.
cIncludes persons with bachelor's, master's, professional, and doctoral degrees.
Note: Estimates for the above race groups (white, black or African American, and Asian) do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races. In addition, persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race and, therefore, are classified by ethnicity as well as by race. Data refer to persons 16 years and older. Data for 2002, which were collected in the 2003, Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey, are not strictly comparable with data for 2001 and earlier years because of the introduction in January 2003 of revised population controls used in the survey.
SOURCE: Adapted from "Table 3. People in the Labor Force for 27 Weeks or More: Poverty Status by Educational Attainment, Race, Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity, and Sex, 2002," in A Profile of the Working Poor, 2002, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2004, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswp2002.pdf (accessed January 9, 2006)
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and older 10.4 10.2 10.7
    Less than a high school diploma 17.1 16.5 18.4
     Less than 1 year of high school 18.3 17.9 19.0
    1-3 years of high school 16.7 15.7 18.7
    4 years of high school, no diploma 11.7 11.5 12.2
High school graduates, no collegeb 8.4 7.5 9.7
Some college or associate degree 5.8 4.7 7.0
    Some college, no degree 6.4 5.3 7.7
    Associate degree 3.9 2.9 5.0
Bachelor's degree and higherc 3.0 2.9 3.1

Additional topics

Jobs and Career OpportunitiesCareers and Occupations: Looking to the FutureThe Education of American Workers - A Better-educated Nation, Labor Force Participation, Dropouts And High School Graduates, Education And Earnings