The Impact of the Recession on Recent College Graduates


The report by the Pew Center on the States, “How Much Protection Does a College Degree Afford? The Impact of the Recession on Recent College Graduates,” drew from data from the 2003-2011 Current Population Survey by the U.S. Census, and used classifications from the Occupational Information Network (O*Net) to examine the employment trends of different populations.

The study, which focused on recent graduates, compared the employment level and average wages of 21- to 24-year-olds with high school degrees, associate degrees, or bachelor’s degrees before, during, and after the recession, and found that while well-paid, college-level jobs have indeed been harder to come by since the recession, the effect has been significantly less severe for those with college degrees.

Although all 21–24-year-olds experienced declines in employment and wages during the recession, the decline was considerably more severe for those with only high school or associate degrees. The comparatively high employment rate of recent college graduates was not driven by a sharp increase in those settling for lesser jobs or lower wages. The share of non-working graduates seeking further education did not change markedly during the recession. Out-of-work college graduates were able to find jobs during the downturn with more success than their less-educated counterparts.