Study Shows a College Degree Can Be Valuable During a Recession

By Catherine Groux
Posted August 17, 2012 10:00 AM

A new study shows a college degree can help people withstand a recession.
A new study shows a college degree can help people withstand a recession.
Since the recession began in December 2007, many Americans have been forced to consider how they can better survive such periods of economic hardship. While times have been hard for many individuals, a new study shows that those who earned a bachelor's degree had an easier time weathering the recession than high school graduates.

Degree Holders Lost Fewer Jobs During the Recession

According to a new study by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, high school graduates were hit the hardest during the recession in terms of employment opportunities. Between December 2007 and January 2010, the number of jobs available to Americans with a high school diploma or less dropped by about 5.6 million. Then, even as the economy began to stabilize between January 2010 and February 2012, these individuals saw an additional 230,000 jobs lost.

Overall, in only five years, high school graduates lost 10% of the jobs that were once available to them. In fact, four out of five jobs destroyed during the recession were held by employees with a high school diploma or less.

At the same time, individuals who held a bachelor's degree or higher were able to indulge in more employment opportunities. During the recession, these Americans saw an additional 187,000 jobs created, while the recovery period brought more than 2 million more positions. Throughout both the recession and recovery, college graduates experienced a 5% increase in job opportunities. 

The Unemployment Rate Remained Lower for College Graduates

As jobs were rapidly eliminated for high school diploma holders, it is not surprising that the unemployment rate of this group quickly rose. During the recession, the jobless rate for these individuals peaked at 13.4% in February 2010, the report shows. Currently, even after years of economic recovery, the unemployment rate for high school graduates stands at 9.4%, over one percentage point above the national average.

For bachelor's degree holders, however, the employment situation was not as bleak. The report shows that during the recession, unemployment rates for college graduates never exceeded 6.3%. Today, only about 4.5% of all bachelor's degree holders do not have a job.

"It is a tough job market for college graduates but far worse for those without a college education," said Anthony P. Carnevale, the Georgetown Center’s director and co-author of the report. "At a time when more and more people are debating the value of postsecondary education, this data shows that your chances of being unemployed increase dramatically without a college degree."

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