New Census research planned on earnings outcomes for college grads

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 271 views 

The U.S. Census Bureau is working to release data on employment and earnings outcomes for college graduates, based on which university they attended.

The first data in the Census Bureau’s Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes was a beta on earnings for graduates of the University of Texas System, which includes 14 institutions. The data is separated into groups of graduates based on when they graduated, the degree they received and their field of study. It shows graduate earnings one year, five years and 10 years after graduation; graduate earnings in the 25th, 50th and 75th percentiles; and the number of graduates in each dataset. The data excludes earnings information if a particular dataset has fewer than 30 graduates.

Following are a few examples of earnings for graduates who received degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, the state’s flagship university.
• In the 75th percentile, a 2001 graduate with a master’s degree in engineering earned $183,026 annually 10 years after graduation, the data shows.
• In the 25th percentile, the graduate earned $99,449 annually.
• In the 75th percentile, a 2006 law school graduate earned $230,267 annually five years after graduation.
• In the 25th percentile, the graduate earned $82,798.
• In the 75th percentile, a 2011 MBA graduate earned $146,304 annually one year after graduation.
• In the 25th percentile, the graduate earned $65,982 annually. Median pay, or the 50th percentile, for the previous three are $132,844, $146,637 and $97,208, respectively.

Mervin Jebaraj, director for the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, follows earnings data based on occupation in a metropolitan statistical area, rather than by graduate. In the occupational data, the lowest earners likely would be fresh graduates, while those with higher pay might be more experienced, Jebaraj said. For example, in the Northwest Arkansas metro area, a lawyer in the 75th percentile earns $186,160 annually and $76,180 in the 25th percentile, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median pay is $100,990.

The Census Bureau is working to release the earnings data on graduates by taking university transcript data and matching the information with national jobs statistics from its Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics program in the Center for Economic Studies. The work product will offer prospective students with a tool and perspective to plan for college, according to the Census Bureau.

“With this pilot, the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics program addresses a major gap in the federal statistical infrastructure for education statistics,” said John Abowd, chief scientist and associate director for research and methodology at the Census Bureau. “Up until now, individual states could only measure earnings and employment outcomes for persons who worked in the same state where they were educated. Thanks to this pilot, states, universities and prospective students have the opportunity to see employment outcomes by program of study by region and industry.”

Other data sources on college graduate earnings, such as commercial websites, states and the U.S. Department of Education, track graduates who offer self-reported data, who remain in the state after graduation or who receive federal aid.

The website PayScale.com offers self-reported data showing earnings for university graduates based on degree type and field of study. Median pay is $101,730 for a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin who earned a master’s degree in engineering, according to PayScale.

By comparison, median pay is $79,799 for a graduate of the University of Arkansas with the same degree. Median pay for an MBA graduate of the University of Texas at Austin is $95,750 and $68,500 for an MBA graduate of the University of Arkansas. The website also ranks universities based on overall graduate earnings and return on investment, with UT at 140th and 103rd and UA at 377th and 317th, respectively.

The Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes only includes data on universities that share their transcript data with the Census Bureau through a data-sharing agreement, which includes universities in Texas and Colorado. Data on students in the Colorado Department of Higher Education is expected to be released later this year. Also this year, the Census Bureau is expected to show the employment flows of graduates after graduation.

“These statistics provide a much clearer picture of earnings outcomes by college degree and institution,” said Andrew Foote, a Census Bureau economics and lead researcher on the project. “We know that some college graduates move to different states for employment. Now we can see where they go and how much money they are earning.”

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