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Opportunity Occupations Revisited: Exploring Employment for Sub-Baccalaureate Workers Across Metro Areas and Over Time

Produced by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Cleveland

This 2019 report updates a 2015 publication investigating regional economic opportunity for workers without a four-year college degree. In this study, researchers from the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Cleveland find that opportunity employment — defined as employment accessible to workers without a bachelor’s degree and typically paying above the national annual median wage, adjusted for regional differences in consumer prices — accounts for 21.6 percent of total employment but ranges from a high of 34.0 percent to a low of 14.6 percent in the metro areas analyzed. The report illustrates how the local mix of occupations, employers’ educational expectations, and the cost of living combine to expand or limit local opportunity relative to national conditions, and it finds that some of the largest opportunity occupations became more accessible to sub-baccalaureate workers as the labor market tightened.

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