Occupational skills change and employment prospects for high school graduates in New York City

David Curtis Skinner, Fordham University


This study has two principal objectives: (i) to measure the change in demand for educationally-related occupational skills in New York City during the 1980–1990 period and (ii) to identify predictors of earnings and employment for high school graduate residents of New York City in 1990. The principal data source is the decennial Census of Population for the years 1980 and 1990. The U.S. Department of Labor's Dictionary of Occupational Titles is used in conjunction with local industry and occupational employment data to directly measure local occupational skills requirements. The study finds that employment-weighted skill means changed little over the decade; for each of six skill measures, parametric and non-parametric difference-of-means tests fail to reject the null hypothesis of no change in average skill demand at the 20% significance level. But a more disaggregated analysis comparing the change in employment by educationally-defined occupational skill groups suggests skill demand bifurcated during the decade. Employment in occupations requiring skills consistent with a college education rose by a rapid 31 and employment in jobs requiring fewer skills that those obtained with a high school education rose by 13%, slightly above the 12% increase in employment for all workers over the decade. But employment in occupations suitable for entry-level high school graduates rose by only 2.9% over the decade and employment in jobs requiring experience or specific vocational training below the college level declined by 2.8%. Microdata analysis shows that a resident high school graduate's employment and earnings in a skills-appropriate occupation in 1990 varies markedly by gender and racial/ethnic group after controlling for observed human capital, other demographic characteristics and industry location. Logit regression models show female gender is a strong positive predictor of mid-skilled employment and black race is a strong negative predictor of this employment. Finally, ordinary least squares earnings regressions suggest that lower returns to human capital investment at least partly explain an observed 18% mean hourly wage gap between high school graduate men and women and observed mean hourly wage gaps of 23%–28% between young, white male graduates and young black and Hispanic male graduates.

Subject Area

Labor economics|Sociology|Urban planning|Area planning & development

Recommended Citation

Skinner, David Curtis, "Occupational skills change and employment prospects for high school graduates in New York City" (2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9955971.