Exploring Employment Trends in the US Census Bureau PSEO Data: Masters Institutions

The release of the US Census Bureau’s Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes (PSEO) data has provided new information related to how much graduates are earning, where and in which industries they are employed, and to what extent graduates are either not employed or are marginally employed. Our previous blog post reviewed the percentage of bachelor’s degree graduates from Doctoral Institutions who graduated between 2001 and 2015 and who have been classified as non-employed or marginally-employed (NME) based on US Census Bureau’s access to nationwide earnings data. This blog post will shift the NME focus to Master’s Colleges and Universities, with an overall comparison across institution types included in the “So What?” section at the end of the blog.

In the previous blog, we couched the NME graduates in comparison to the concept of underemployment of college graduates, which may be a more familiar construct to those interested in higher education outcomes. Specifically, we looked at the longitudinal data provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Economic Research division that shows over 30 years of underemployment trend data for both “Recent graduates” (aged 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s degree or higher) and “College graduates” (aged 22 to 65 with a bachelor’s degree or higher). For reference, the average underemployment for Recent graduates is 43.1% and 34.3% for College graduates in the data spanning 1990 to 2021.

US Census Bureau's Variation on Underemployment: Non-/Marginally-Employed Graduates

As introduced in the previous blog, the US Census Bureau’s PSEO data provides us with a construct that is analogous to the concept of underemployment described above: non-employed or marginally employed (NME). According to US Census Bureau’s documentation, “Workers who do not meet the labor force attachment restrictions…are counted in the residual measures” that are referred to as “non-employed or marginally employed” (US Census Bureau). The two restrictions exclude graduates who “earn less than the annual equivalent of full-time work at the prevailing federal minimum wage” and “graduates with two or more quarters with no earnings in the reference year.”

By way of reminder, the visualizations below present the NME percentages by university across the three time points (1, 5, and 10 Years after graduation), focusing on Carnegie classified Master’s Colleges and Universities. The size of each university data point corresponds to the number of graduates included in the PSEO data at each time point. To differentiate Texas institutions, the color-coding of the data points corresponds to public university system affiliation in Texas, with all out-of-state institutions shown in a light-gray color. We have also included distribution data for each time point, showing the group averages along with box plots that help identify outliers in the data.

When interpreting the institutional rates compared to the group average, it is important to note that an NME rate above the average means that a higher percentage of bachelor’s degree graduates from that university were non-employed or marginally-employed when compared to the group average. Institutions located below the average are performing better on the NME metric than institutions located above the group average. Also of note is that there are no Texas public institutions in the Master’s: Small Programs group, so we do not include a visualization for this group in the PSEO data.

Master’s Colleges and Universities: Larger Programs

  • There are a total of 12 Texas public universities included in the Master’s: Larger Programs category.
  • For Year 1 Average NME rates, Sul Ross State University, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, and Angelo State University are above the average for this Carnegie Classification of 28.9% one year after graduation. Three City University of New York institutions (Brooklyn College, Queens College, and Hunter College) are the highest NME percentages between 42.2% and 42.7%, with UT Permian Basin having the lowest NME percentage in Year 1 at 20.2%.
  • For Year 5 Average NME rates, the group average drops to 22.2%, with Angelo State University and Tarleton State University above the group average. The distance from highest NME percentage to lowest shrinks in Year 5, with CUNY Hunter College in New York with the highest average of 31.6%, while SUNY College at Cortland in New York is the lowest NME rate at 13.9%.
  • For Year 10 Average NME rates, the overall average increases slightly to 23.4%. Seven Texas public institutions (UH Clear Lake, Tarleton State, Angelo State, UT Permian Basin, Midwestern State, UH Downtown, and West Texas A&M University) are at or above the group average in Year 10. SUNY Empire State University in New York has the highest percentage at 33.4%, while SUNY College at Cortland in New York has the lowest NME rate at 14% in Year 10.

Master’s Colleges and Universities: Medium Programs

  • As shown in the “NME: Masters Medium (boxplots)” tab below, there are three Texas public institutions in the PSEO data in Year 1, with only two institutions in Year 5 data, and a single institution in Year 10 data.
  • For Year 1 Average NME rates, the overall average of 28.3% in Year 1 after graduation for the Master’s: Medium Program group is slightly lower than the 28.9% seen in the Master’s: Larger Program group. For Texas institutions, Texas A&M University-Central Texas (TAMUCT) is above the group average. The State University of New York College at Potsdam shows the highest NME percentage of 40.3%, while State University of New York Polytechnic Institute has the lowest NME percentage in Year 1 at 18.5%.
  • For Year 5 Average NME rates, the group average drops to 21.6%, with TAMUCT and Texas A&M University-Texarkana (TAMUT) above the group average. TAMUCT has the highest NME rate at 35% in Year 5, while the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute is the lowest NME institution at 16.5%.
  • For Year 10 Average NME rates, the overall average is identical to the Year 5 average at 21.6%. TAMUT is above the group average in Year 10. Southern University at New Orleans has the highest percentage at 31.3%, while SUNY at Fredonia in New York has the lowest NME rate at 17% in Year 10.

NOTES: If you are unable to read the labels in the visualization below, we recommend clicking the “Full Screen” button on the lower right of the visualization window to enlarge the information. Hovering over each point will provide a tooltip with additional information. If you want to “Highlight” just the Texas institutions further, place your cursor/tap in the box labeled “Texas/Out-of-State” and select “Texas” from the drop-down menu. This will also show the averages for Texas institutions in comparison to the overall average at each timepoint.

So What?

The first tab (NME: All Carnegie Avgs) introduces PSEO data for Bachelor’s level institutions, which have not been presented due to there being no Texas public institutions included in the data. When averaging across Carnegie Classification groups, the Bachelor’s institutions collectively perform best in the NME metric at each time point, with Master’s institutions second and Doctoral institutions having the highest average NME rates at Year 1, Year 5, and Year 10. The gap between lowest and highest drops from 9.1 percentage points (22.5% to 31.6%) in Year 1 to 4.6 percentage points (20% to 24.6%) in Year 10. Most interestingly, the “U-shaped” curve of the data is evident in all three Carnegie group-level averages.

The second tab below (NME: Overall by Carnegie) combines the data from the previous blog and this blog to compare the average NME rate for the six Doctoral and Master’s institution groups at the three time points in the PSEO data. What was somewhat surprising in the Doctoral-only data was that the Very High Research Activity (or R1) universities in the PSEO data was the worst-performing group at each time point based on its highest NME percentage. This rank-ordering continues to be the case when adding the Master’s institutions into the comparison. In the Year 1 and Year 5 post-graduation checkpoints, the three Master’s groups are situated in-between the Doctoral: High Research Activity and the Doctoral/Professional Universities. In Year 10, the Master’s: Small Programs is second-worst in Year 10, with the Master’s: Medium Programs the best-performing NME rate group in the final checkpoint.

The final tab (NME: Masters Overall) shows just the Master’s Colleges and Universities averages by group. Again, there is a drop in the NME average from Year 1 to Year 5 after graduation, with an uptick in NME average rates from Year 5 to Year 10 post-graduation. The average NME rates for Master’s institutions are essentially identical in Year 1 (28.3% to 28.9%) and Year 5 (21.6% to 22.2%), with a slight separation in Year 10 (21.6% to 23.8%).

When comparing the decline in NME rates from Year 1 to Year 10 in the PSEO data to the underemployment data presented at the top of the blog post, the NME trends seem to mirror the longitudinal data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York report. As graduates move from the “Recent graduates” to the “College graduates” when turning 28-years-old, the average underemployment rate drops from 43.1% to 34.3% historically, representing a 20.4% decrease. When averaging the NME rates across all Doctoral Universities in the PSEO data, the change from the overall average of 31.6% in Year 1 to 24.6% in Year 10 is a 22.2% change. When averaging the NME rates across all Master’s Colleges & Universities in the PSEO data, the change from the overall average of 28.7% in Year 1 to 23.2% in Year 10 is a 19.2% change. The Bachelor’s institutions show the smallest percentage change over time, dropping from 22.5% in Year 1 to 20% in Year 10, which is a change of 11.1%. In terms of comparison, the NME metric shows there is a greater change for Doctoral institutions when compared to the underemployment percentage change over time, while the change for Master’s and Bachelor’s institutions is lower.

The PSEO data, and specifically the ordering of institution types within the NME data, suggest more questions worthy of further exploration:

  • Why is there a U-shaped curve across all institution types, where Year 10 is higher than Year 5?
  • Why do Doctoral Universities: Very High Research Activity institutions appear to perform worst on the NME metric when compared to all other institution groups?
  • Does the geographic location of an institution play a role in determining the number and percentage of graduates who are categorized as NME after graduation?
  • What is the competitive landscape for bachelor’s degreeholders within an institution’s primary service region?
  • Does greater graduate mobility promote lower levels of non/marginal employment?

We invite comments/questions surrounding this topic that would increase our collective understanding of which variables might be influencing how many graduates who are being categorized as non-/marginally-employed within the PSEO data.

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