Data Reveal Challenges and Opportunity for Rhode Island’s Young Adults

by Christina Pena
January 6, 2016

Rhode Island DataHUB has released a new data story that examines the workforce outcomes of young adults who have been educated at the state’s public postsecondary institutions. Through charts, graphs, and brief text, the story conveys the challenges members of this group face as Rhode Island seeks to improve their employment outcomes.

Young Adults in RI’s Education-to-Career Pipeline reviews factors such as educational attainment and field of study to see how they relate to subsequent employment in the state. The story summarizes findings from a research project that has followed a cohort of students who attended 8th grade during the 2005-06 academic year in Rhode Island public schools and who have since enrolled in the state's public postsecondary institutions.

Using 2014 wage records, researchers found that these graduates had lower wages than Rhode Island industry averages, which may be expected because these young adults have been in the workforce for a relatively shorter period of time overall and have probably started out at entry level jobs. The authors flag a worrying trend, however, in that a sizeable portion of these young adults are not even earning a "living wage."

On a more positive note, cohort members who earned associate's degrees or certificates in time for tracking their place in the workforce 18 months after graduation saw a 64% average increase in their total annual earnings.

The project will continue to assess data for this cohort to examine their longer-term wages with an eye toward retaining Rhode Island talent, and helping prospective students make better choices when considering their postsecondary to career paths.

RI DataHUB also recently posted a story on Health Care and Social Assistance in Rhode Island's Economy, which takes a closer look at the size and wages of various health and social service job sectors within Rhode Island, and also compares the findings against regional and national trends.

These Data Stories from Rhode Island and similar projects show how states can build on their Statewide Longitudinal Data System and Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants to inform education and workforce stakeholders. For more information on how Rhode Island is using workforce data, see WDQC's 2015 Blueprint survey assessment, the State Workforce and Education Alignment Project via the National Skills Coalition, and Rhode Island's Data Sharing Project.