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April 1993, Vol. 116, No. 4
Jonathan R. Veum and Andrea B. Weiss
D ata from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth allow for fairly precise determination of measures of labor market activity not available from any other data source.1 These data indicate that work experience between the ages of 18 and 27 varies substantially by sex, race, and educational level, and reveal patterns of work behavior that are somewhat surprising. For example, by age 27, individuals with 1 to 3 years of college education have, on average, worked more weeks than have high school graduates. Also, college graduates average more total weeks worked than do high school dropouts at all ages, even between the ages of 18 to 22, when many college graduates are attending school full time. This finding reflects the fact that young female high school dropouts acquire very little work experience.
In addition, the data indicate that education accounts for much of the sex and race differentials in labor market activity. Gender and race differentials are particularly conspicuous among high school dropouts. However, with increased educational attainment, most of these differentials become smaller, and are particularly small or nonexistent among college graduates. For example, college educated women hold more jobs and work more weeks from age 18 to 27 than do college educated men, whereas female high school dropouts hold approximately 1-1/2 fewer jobs and work only about half as many weeks as do their male counterparts. Also, by age 27 there is very little difference among college educated whites, blacks, and Hispanics in the number of weeks worked. In general, the data indicate that greater educational attainment allows young workers to spend more time employed, and thus to acquire work experience more readily.
This article analyzes the work histories of young workers, focusing on differences in work experience by educational level. The results permit comparison by educational level of work patterns by years of age for persons aged 18 to 27 over the 1978-90 period.
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1 The National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) are sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with data collection undertaken for the BLS by the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the National Opinion Research Center, a social science research center affiliated with the University of Chicago. The BLS contracts with the Center for Human Resource Research of the Ohio State University to manage the surveys and provide user services.
The NLS are repeated interviews of groups of individuals over time. Four nationally representative samples were drawn in the 1960's: Young Men 14 to 24 years old in 1966, Young Women 14 to 24 years old in 1968, Older Men 45 to 59 years old in 1966, and Mature Women 30 to 44 years old in 1967. A fifth sample of youth-young men and women aged 14-21-was drawn in 1979. The Young Women, Mature Women and Youth surveys still are collected. For a detailed explanation of the NLS, see NLS Handbook 1992 (The Ohio State University, Center of Human Resource Research).
Training among young adults: who, what kind, and for how long? August 1993.
Drug and alcohol use at work: a survey of young workers. August 1991.
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