The second grouping, labeled with the WORK prefix, includes eight factors related to employment and barriers to employment. These measures include data on overall labor force attachment and employment and earnings for low-skilled workers, as well as data on barriers to work. The latter category includes incidence of adult and child disabilities, adult substance abuse, and levels of educational attainment and school drop-out rates.
Employment and earnings provide many families with an escape from dependence. It is important, therefore, to look both at overall labor force attachment (WORK 1), and at employment and earnings for those with low education levels (WORK 2 and WORK 3). The economic condition of the low-skill labor market is a key predictor of the ability of men and women to support families without receiving means-tested assistance.
The next two measures in this group (WORK 4 and WORK 5) focus on educational attainment. Individuals with less than a high school education have the lowest amount of human capital and are at the greatest risk of being poor, despite their work effort.
Measures of barriers to employment provide indicators of potential work limitations, which may be predictors of greater dependence. Substance abuse (WORK 6) and disabling conditions among children and adults (WORK 7) all have the potential of limiting the ability of the adults in the household to work. In addition, debilitating health conditions and high medical expenditures can strain a family’s economic resources. The labor force participation of women with children (WORK 8) is also a predictor of dependence.
Employment and Work-related Risk Factor 1. Labor Force Attachment
Figure WORK 1. Percentage of Individuals in Families with Labor Force Participants by Race/Ethnicity: 2005
Source: Unpublished tabulations from the Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2006.
- In 2005, 72 percent of the total population lived in families with at least one person working on a full-time, full-year basis (FT/FY), as shown in Table WORK 1a. While slightly lower than the peak in 2000, the percentage of individuals living with full-time, full year workers has generally increased since the early 1990s, as shown in Table WORK 1b.
- Persons of Hispanic origin were less likely than non-Hispanic whites or non-Hispanic blacks to live in families with no one in the labor force in 2005 (9 percent compared to 15 and 17 percent, respectively).
- Working-age women in 2005 were more likely than working-age men to live in families with no one in the labor force (8 percent compared to 6 percent), as shown in Table Work 1a. Men were more likely than women to live in families with at least one full-time, full-year worker (81 percent compared to 77 percent).
- More than 80 percent of individuals in married families lived with at least one full-time, fullyear worker in 2005, compared to only about 60 percent in male or female-headed households, as shown in Table WORK 1a.
Table WORK 1a. Percentage of Individuals in Families with Labor Force Participants, by Race/Ethnicity and Age: 2005
Table WORK 1b. Percentage of Individuals in Families with Labor Force Participants: Selected Years
Employment and Work-related Risk Factor 2. Employment Among the Low-skilled
Figure WORK 2. Percentage of Persons Ages 18 to 65 with No More than a High School Education Who Were Employed at Any Time during Year, by Race/Ethnicity: 1968-2005
Source: Unpublished tabulations from the Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 1969-2006.
- Employment rates for women with a high school education or less generally increased during the 1980s and 1990s, although this trend has shown some modest reversal since 2000. Employment levels have been higher among low-skilled non-Hispanic white and black women (66 and 63 percent, respectively, in 2005) than among low-skilled Hispanic women (56 percent).
- In contrast, employment levels for non-Hispanic men with a high school education or less have decreased over the past three decades, especially for non-Hispanic black men (66 percent in 2005 compared to 90 percent in 1968). Hispanic men with a high school education or less have had only slight variation in employment levels over the past three decades.
- As shown in Figure and Table WORK 2, employment levels for non-Hispanic black men with a high school education or less were 3 percentage points higher than those of similarly educated non-Hispanic black women in 2005. In contrast, there was a 14 percentage point difference in employment levels of non-Hispanic white men and women with a high school education or less, and a 30 percentage point difference between similarly educated Hispanic men and women.
Table WORK 2. Percentage of Persons Ages 18 to 65 with No More than a High School Education Who Were Employed, by Race/Ethnicity: 1968-2005
Employment and Work-related Risk Factor 3. Earnings of Low-skilled Workers
Figure WORK 3. Mean Weekly Wages of Women and Men Working Full-Time, Full-Year with No More than a High School Education, by Race/Ethnicity (2005 Dollars): Selected Years
Source: Unpublished tabulations from the Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 1981-2006.
- Average weekly wages of low-skilled women have been consistently lower than those of low-skilled men. For example, the average weekly wages of non-Hispanic black women without a high school education who worked full-time, full-year were 80 percent of those of men of the same race, education and work status in 2005 ($477 compared to $597).
- Non-Hispanic white women have had the highest average weekly wages among low-skilled women working full-time, full-year reaching $570 in 2005. This level is a 19 percent increase over their mean weekly wages in 1980. Over the same time period, non-Hispanic black women and Hispanic women’s weekly wages increased at slower rates (9 percent and 5 percent, respectively).
- Average weekly wages for all low-skilled workers decreased from 2004 to 2005. Wages for Hispanic men decreased the most during this time period ($551 compared to $531), while low-skilled non-Hispanic black women had the smallest drop in wages ($480 compared to $477).
- Over the past two decades, both Hispanic women and men’s wages have lagged behind non-Hispanic whites and blacks among low-skilled, full-time workers. In 2005, Hispanic women’s wages were 25 percent lower than non-Hispanic white women and 10 percent lower than non-Hispanic black women. Hispanic men trailed non-Hispanic white men by 33 percent and non-Hispanic black men by 11 percent.
Table WORK 3. Mean Weekly Wages of Women and Men Working Full-Time, Full-Year with No More than a High School Education, by Race/Ethnicity (2005 Dollars): Selected Years
Employment and Work-related Risk Factor 4. Educational Attainment
Figure WORK 4. Percentage of Adults Ages 25 and over, by Level of Educational Attainment: 1960-2005
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, “Educational Attainment in the United States, 2005,” Current Population Reports and earlier reports.
- There has been a notable decline over the past 45 years in the percentage of the population that has not received a high school education. This percentage fell from 59 percent in 1960 to 15 percent in 2005.
- The percentage of the population receiving a high school education only (with no subsequent college education) was 25 percent in 1960 and rose to 39 percent in 1988. Since then this figure has fallen to 32 percent in 2005, although some of this decline is a result of a change in the survey methodology in 1992 (see note to Table WORK 4).
- Between 1960 and 1990, the percentage of the population with some college (one to three years) doubled, from 9 percent to 18 percent. The apparent jump in 1992 is a result of a change in the survey methodology (see note to Table WORK 4), but the trend continued upward, reaching 25 percent in 2005.
- The percentage of the population completing four or more years of college has more than tripled from 1960 to 2005, rising steadily from 8 percent to 28 percent.
Table WORK 4. Percentage of Adults Ages 25 and over, by Level of Educational Attainment Selected Years
Employment and Work-related Risk Factor 5. High School Dropout Rates
Figure WORK 5. Percentage of Students Enrolled in Grades 10 to 12 in the Previous Year Who Were Not Enrolled and Had Not Graduated in the Survey Year, by Race/Ethnicity: Selected Years
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Dropout Rates in the United States: 2003 and earlier years (based on Current Population Survey data from the October supplement).
- Dropout rates for teens in grades 10 to 12 (all races) generally declined during the 1980s, from a high of 6.7 percent in the late 1970s to a low of 4.0 percent in the early 1990s. The rate then began rising in the early 1990s, reaching as high as 5.7 percent in 1995. Since then, it has fallen to 4.0 percent in 2003.
- The 2002 dropout rate of 3.6 percent was the lowest rate in thirty years.
- Dropout rates among Hispanic and non-Hispanic black teens have fluctuated considerably over this period. Still, dropout rates are generally highest for Hispanic teens and lowest for non-Hispanic white teens. In 2003, the dropout rate was 7.1 percent for Hispanic teens, compared to 4.8 percent for non-Hispanic black teens and 3.2 percent for non-Hispanic white teens.
Table WORK 5. Percentage of Students Enrolled in Grades 10 to 12 in the Previous Year Who Were Not Enrolled and Had Not Graduated in the Survey Year, by Race/Ethnicity: Selected Years
Employment and Work-related Risk Factor 6. Adult Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Figure WORK 6. Percentage of Adults Who Used Cocaine or Marijuana or Abused Alcohol, by Age: 2005
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2006.
In 2005, young adults (ages 18 to 25) were more likely than older adults to report alcohol abuse, marijuana use, or cocaine use in the past month. For example, about one in six (16 percent) adults ages 18 to 25 reported using marijuana in the past month during 2005, compared with 9 percent of adults ages 26 to 34 and 3 percent of adults ages 35 and older.
The percentage of persons reporting binge alcohol use was significantly larger than the percentages for all other reported behaviors across all age groups, as shown in Table WORK 6.
Among young adults, heavy drinking and marijuana and cocaine use increased between 2004 and 2005 while heavy drinking and marijuana use declined for adults ages 35 and over, as shown in Table WORK 6.
Table WORK 6. Percentage of Adults Who Used Cocaine or Marijuana or Abused Alcohol by Age: 1999-2005
Employment and Work-related Risk Factor 7. Adult and Child Disability
Figure WORK 7. Percentage of the Non-Elderly Population Reporting an Activity Limitation by Race/Ethnicity and Age: 2005
Source: Unpublished tabulations from the National Health Interview Survey, 2006.
- In 2005, non-elderly adults were more likely than children to have an activity limitation, 10.7 percent compared to 7.4 percent.
- While non-elderly adults were more likely than children to report an activity limitation, a higher percentage of children than adults were actually recipients of disability program benefits in 2005 (6.2 percent compared to 4.7 percent), as shown in Table WORK 7.
- For both non-elderly adults and children, the percentage of non-Hispanic blacks with an activity limitation was higher than the percentages for non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics. Non-Hispanic black adults and children also were more likely to receive disability program benefits than non-Hispanic white and Hispanic adults and children in 2005, as shown in Table WORK 7.
- Among non-elderly adults, rates of work disability and long-term care needs were lower for Hispanics than for non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks, as shown in Table WORK 7.
Table WORK 7. Percentage of the Non-Elderly Population Reporting a Disability, by Race/Ethnicity and Age: 2005
Employment and Work-related Risk Factor 8. Labor Force Participation of Women with Children Under 18
Figure WORK 8. Labor Force Participation of Women with Children under 18: 1975-2005
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, unpublished tabulations from the Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 1976-2006.
- The labor force participation rates for married and for divorced, separated or widowed mothers decreased between 2004 and 2005, as shown in Figure WORK 8.
- Since 1992, the labor force participation rate of never-married mothers with children under 18 has increased dramatically from 53 percent to 73 percent. Since 1998, the participation rate for never-married mothers has exceeded the rate for married mothers. Similarly, the employment rate for never-married mothers increased from 43 percent in 1992 to 62 percent in 2005, as shown in Table WORK 8.
- Historically, mothers who are divorced, separated or widowed have always had the highest rates of labor force participation. By 1994, the gap between these women and married mothers had narrowed considerably; however, over the past 10 years this gap has again widened. In 2005, the labor force participation rate of divorced, separated or widowed mothers was 80 percent, compared to 68 percent for married mothers.
- The labor force participation rate of married mothers with children under 18 followed an upward trend from 1950 until 1997 when it peaked at 71 percent. Since 1997 it has edged downward slowly.
- While the labor force participation rate of married mothers decreased last year, the employment rate, which excludes women laid off or unemployed but looking for work, increased slightly.
Table WORK 8. Employment Status of Women with Children under 18 Years of Age: 1975-2005