A higher education may finally promise lower unemployment rates.
For the first time in a long time, underemployment gaps are beginning to narrow. A new report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce found that the higher the level of education, the lower the underemployment rate was, regardless of race or color.
The report studied the rates of underemployment since the Great Recession that happened five years ago, which largely impacted the number of jobs and employment in the U.S. It's important to realize that underemployment and unemployment aren't the same thing. Unemployment means anyone who does not have any type of job, including part-time and contracted work. However, underemployment includes people who have a part-time role and wish they had a full-time one, as well as people who are currently unemployed and have stopped actively looking for a new job.
"Only 6% of African Americans and Latinos and 4% of whites faced underemployment if they held a graduate degree."
The report revealed that the greater education students had, the less likely they were to be underemployed. The researchers found the sweet spot was for students who held graduate degrees. Students who had only graduated from high school were not nearly as well off.
High school graduates faced considerable underemployment, with 17.9 percent of African Americans and 9 percent of whites facing career woes. However, the rates for those with a graduate degree are significantly better. Only 6 percent of African Americans and Latinos and 4 percent of whites faced underemployment if they held a graduate degree.
Of course, this makes sense in theory. The greater amount of time you spend investing in your education and skill set, the better off you'll be. Yet that theory changed when the recession hit and countless graduates struggled to find anything worthwhile. When the recession began five years ago, the overall underemployment rate was more than 10 percent for college graduates, 13 percent for high school graduates and 19 percent for high school dropouts. Today, the overall underemployment rate for college graduates sits at 6.2 percent, and has promise to go down even further.
A glimmer of hope
This is a relief for many students who worry about bearing the burden of loans on a part-time salary after graduation. When underemployment numbers were fairly high, many people were suggesting that skipping higher education altogether may have been the smarter choice financially. Some high school and college students who graduated around the time of the recession did make that choice simply because they didn't have the means to pay. Luckily, now that employment rates have gotten better, students have the chance to invest in their education without worrying about whether or not they will be able to pay for it.
Aside from improvements in race disparities, the findings revealed that the one group that came out on top were female graduates. Women who pursued an undergraduate or graduate degree were most likely to recover from the recession and find a job with reasonable pay compared to the other groups studied. However, they also faced the worst hardship during the recession, with very few finding decent careers. The results showed that since the recession began, the underemployment rates for women with graduate degrees decreased by 51 percent, and the rates for women who held undergraduate degrees and even high school degrees, also fared well. Currently, the underemployment rate for women overall sits at 11.1 percent, where the rate for men is 8.9 percent. However, when the recession began, men were actually more likely to be underemployed than women.
So if you've been contemplating whether you should go back to school to pursue a higher degree, now might be the perfect time.
By Monique Smith