Want to know how much money you might make with an economics degree? Or how much difference it makes graduating with an economics degree from one school compared to another?
Going to college is a major financial decision with long-term ramifications for prospective students and parents. Now, there is a new U.S. Census Bureau data tool to assess labor market outcomes based on the field of study and institution.
“Thanks to this pilot, states, universities and prospective students have the opportunity to see employment outcomes by program of study by region and industry.”
— John Abowd, chief scientist and associate director for research and methodology at the Census Bureau
The Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes (PSEO) project tabulates earnings by institution, degree level and degree field. PSEO does this by linking university transcript data to the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer Household Dynamics (LEHD) records, which list unemployment-insurance covered quarterly earnings.
Data from PSEO offer an important assessment tool to plan postsecondary education and address a major gap in education statistics by providing a much clearer picture of what happens when a graduate gets a job out of state.
“Up until now, individual states could only measure earnings and employment outcomes for persons who worked in the same state where they were educated,” said John Abowd, chief scientist and associate director for research and methodology at the Census Bureau. “Thanks to this pilot, states, universities and prospective students have the opportunity to see employment outcomes by program of study by region and industry.”
The University of Texas is the first educational institution to enter into a data-sharing agreement with the Census Bureau.
New analyses of the tabulation released in March show differences in outcomes based on field of study, even within an institution.
The graphs above show the earnings one year after graduation for bachelor’s recipients in four majors. The data show that economics is on average the highest-earning major of the four with a median of almost $47,000. The earnings of biology and psychology majors perform relatively poorly in the first year after graduation, with a median of around $35,000.
The PSEO data also show differing earnings trajectories over time. The third figure is a scatterplot of earnings where the x-axis is the one-year median earnings and the y-axis is the five-year median earnings.
Comparing earnings reveals some telling patterns. Median earnings for all majors grow, although earnings growth is stronger for biology and economics. Interestingly, earnings still had robust growth even though the fifth year after graduation for this cohort was during the Great Recession.
Data for the Colorado Department of Higher Education is scheduled to be released in October. All tabulations will be publicly available through the PSEO database. The Census Bureau will also release a web application at that time to make PSEO easier to browse and more accessible.
Andrew Foote is an economist and lead researcher on the Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes project in the Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies.