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23 2 Outcomes for Young Adults in Two Cohorts This chapter presents descriptive information about employment, education, and risky behaviors for young adults in the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s. In particular, we examine three areas: 1) employment outcomes of hourly wages, hours worked, and weeks worked; 2) educational outcomes of enrollment, degrees attained, high school test scores, and high school grade point averages (GPAs); and 3) engagement in risky behaviors of early substance use, childbearing while unmarried, and illegal activities. Simple descriptive statistics on these outcomes are presented for the full sample (separately by cohort) as well as by race and gender within each cohort. These statistics make it possible to examine differences across groups within a cohort, trends for a specific group across cohorts, and differences across groups across cohorts. Later in the chapter, we report descriptive statistics for additional outcomes for the more recent cohort of young adults and present regression estimates that show statistical relationships between their outcomes. The chapter concludes with a summary of the trends in young adults’ outcomes over the past two decades. SAMPLE Our analysis in this chapter uses data from the 1979 and 1997 cohorts of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79 and NLSY97). As we noted in Chapter 1, the NLSY79 is a nationally representative survey of more than 12,000 youth ages 14 to 21 as of December 31, 1978; and the NLSY97 is a nationally representative survey of almost 9,000 youth ages 12 to 16 as of December 31, 1996. The NLSY79 cohort was surveyed annually until 1994 and biannually afterwards. The NLSY97 cohort has been surveyed annually since 1997. 24 Hill, Holzer, and Chen For descriptive analyses in the first part of this chapter, we impose three sample restrictions. First, to examine young adults of the same ages across the two cohorts (in Tables 2.1, 2.2, and 2.4), we include only young adults who were ages 22 to 24 at the time they were interviewed in either 1987 (for the early [NLSY79] cohort) or 2004–2005 (Round 8 for the later [NLSY97] cohort). These were the youngest members of the NLSY79 cohort (born primarily between 1962 and 1964) and the oldest members of the NLSY97 cohort (born primarily between 1980 and 1982). While all of these sample members were 22 to 24 at the time they were interviewed, the NLSY79 sample members were slightly older because the 1987 interviews were conducted mostly between April and June, while the 2004–2005 interviews were conducted mostly between November and January.1 We focus on the 1987 and 2004–2005 interviews because the 12 months prior to these dates represent similar points in the business cycle . While unemployment rates in late 1986–early 1987 were higher than those in 2004 (about 7.1 versus 5.5 percent), labor market tightness is comparable across the two years relative to most estimates of “full employment” for those periods.2 The labor market was recovering from a steep recession in the former period and from a more modest downturn in the latter one. For the second sample restriction, we include only the largest racial/ ethnic subgroups: white non-Hispanics, black non-Hispanics, and Hispanics . For the third sample restriction (a relatively minor one) we exclude any persons who were still enrolled in high school and persons who were enrolled in college for whom the type (two-year or four-year) could not be reliably determined.3 Regression analyses presented in the last part of the chapter (as well as sample means in Tables 2.3 and 2.5) are based on samples that include all ages of white, black, and Hispanic sample members from the NLSY97 only. Another notable characteristic of the sample used in the analyses is that we include sample members who were incarcerated at the time of the survey.4 Incarcerated individuals account for about 2 percent (n = 69) of our 22- to 24-year-old NLSY79 sample and 1.3 percent (n = 51) of our NLSY97 sample, but nearly 6.5 percent (n = 29) of young black men in the 1979 cohort and 6.2 percent (n = 33) of young black men in the 1997 cohort. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that roughly 12 percent of young black men between the ages of 16 and 34 are now in- Outcomes for Young Adults in Two Cohorts 25 carcerated at any one time, while about twice that number are on parole or probation...


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