Report profiles Americans at age 21

Men were more likely to have civilian jobs or be in the military while women were more likely to be in college.
Junior Alyssa Ruth rings up a customer at University Bookstore on Wednesday. A report issued last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 46 percent of 21-year-old women are enrolled in college versus 36 percent of men the same age.

Although Alyssa Ruth's job at University Bookstore was a temporary position, the 21-year-old junior said she is glad the store decided to retain her after the holidays. She said it offers her some financial independence in an increasingly tough job market

"I just don't want to have to ask my parents for extra money," she said. "I don't have a car right now, so this is a really good option for me."

A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics revealed trends in employment and college education among men and women.

The report said women are 10 percent more likely to be enrolled in college than men and of those not in college, men were more likely to be working in the military.

The report details the results of a 10-year longitudinal study, a survey of about 9,000 people born between 1980 and 1984. It focused on the school enrollment and employment patterns among people when they turned 21.

Labor bureau economist Jay Meisenheimer said the results of that study might differ from the realities of teenagers who will turn 21 during the next few years, partially owing to the economic crisis.

"The people in this report turned 21 in different economic conditions," Meisenheimer said. "I don't think most economic forecasters envisioned circumstances like this even a year ago."

Among the most noteworthy of its findings, the study showed within that group, 46 percent of women were enrolled in college during the October they were 21 versus 36 percent of men.

Meisenheimer said the finding was not unexpected because women also had a higher high school graduation rate, allowing more of them to get into college and once in college to stay there.

"I think it's something that wouldn't come as a surprise to any college admissions officer," Meisenheimer said. "It's a trend that's been going on for a long time."

About 41 percent of the 21-year-old population overall was enrolled in college, a drop of two percent from when they were 20. But the study stressed that some people delay their college enrollment.

Of those in college between both genders, 82 percent who were in college at the age of 20 were still in college at the age of 21. Black people and Hispanic people were found to be less likely to continue going to school between the ages of 20 and 21.

Of those who were not in college, men were more likely to be employed or serving in the armed forces.

MU professor Peggy Placier, who specializes in education leadership and policy analysis, said the trends were not unexpected but the military service trend among men was notable because of the conflicts in the Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The armed services have used the opportunity to get an education as part of their recruitment so some men may have enrolled in the armed forces because of the education," Placier said. "The interesting thing is the war. We don't know if they have gotten the chance to go to college. That may have put a hold on some of those men's education."

The study also documented the employment histories of the 21-year-olds and found that among high school graduates who never went to college, about one in four graduates stayed with the same employed for two years or longer. It found five percent of this group had not yet held a job after graduating.

Placier cautioned those statistics might change in coming surveys with the economic downturn.

"The other thing that you have to be careful about is that they were collected before the current economic crisis," Placier said. "So next year's findings will show how many people will go back to school to deal with economic problems."

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