Photograph by Helen Ashford—Getty Images
By Claire Zillman
July 8, 2014

Forget Big Brother, when it comes to keeping tabs on recent college graduates, the Department of Education is more like Big Mother, checking in every so often and interrogating them about their lives. The results of its latest inquiry were published by the National Center on Education Statistics on Tuesday. The report presents the findings of NCES’s 2012 survey, which asked 17,110 Americans who received bachelor’s degrees from July 2007 through June 2008 to self-report their employment outcomes four years after graduation. The results for graduates who entered the job market in the depths of the recession? Not too shabby.

The graduates—54% said that they were single and without children in 2012—had an overall unemployment rate of 6.7%. That’s low compared to the country as a whole, which started 2012 with an 8.2% jobless rate and ended the year at 7.9% unemployment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents held a job four years after graduation, 10.7% held a job and attended school, 5.7% were students and didn’t work, while 7.9% were not in the labor force at all. The graduates earned a median full-time salary of $46,000 in 2012; meanwhile, per capita income that year in the U.S. overall was $42,693.

And for all the talk about the seemingly lax work ethic of Millennials—a classification that applies to this group of grads—the survey respondents reported working 41.2 hours per week, far above the 34.4 hours that most workers recorded in 2012.

But buried in the decent employment rates and okay wages are a few puzzling pieces of information. So, for now, let’s ignore the relatively good news and explore these problematic facts:


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