In November 2010, Matt Deimund was just six months away from his college graduation, and he didn't know what came next.
But by the time Deimund graduated from the University of Oklahoma's Price College of Business the following May, he had a job offer in hand, and a plan for the future in mind.
New research suggests Deimund's story wasn't an uncommon one, even at the height of the recession and in its immediate aftermath.
A new study from the Pew Center on the States' Economic Mobility Project shows young adults with bachelor's degrees generally weathered the recession better than their counterparts who had associate's degrees or less.
Deimund works as a business analyst with McKinsey and Co., a New York-based management consulting firm. It wasn't an easy job to find, he said.
During his senior year, there was plenty of hiring going on. But most of the firms that showed up to career fairs were based in Oklahoma or Texas. Deimund hoped to find a job outside the region — he loves Oklahoma, but wanted to see what it was like to live somewhere else, he said. So he had to try other avenues to find a job.
“It was difficult,” he said.
Once he went to work, Deimund said, he felt well-prepared for the business world. The education he received at OU was “absolutely excellent,” he said, and the immersion he had in finance and accounting set him up to succeed in his career.
“It was tremendous,” he said.
According to the Pew study, recent graduates like Deimund were more protected from the economic downturn than their counterparts with lesser education credentials.
The study, called “How Much Protection Does a College Degree Afford? The Impact of the Recession on Recent College Graduates,” was released earlier this month.
According to the report, all 21- to 24-year-olds saw declines in employment and wages during the recession. But the overall decline in jobs made employment gaps that existed before the recession even worse.
Before the recession, just more than half of all young adults with a high school degree were employed, compared with about two thirds of those with associate's degrees and three fourths who had bachelor's degrees, according to the report.
During the recession, employment decline for people with only high school diplomas was 16 percent and 11 percent for those with associate's degrees. For those with bachelor's degrees, the decline was just 7 percent.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. The report concludes that college graduates were better protected against the worst effects of the recession than their less-educated counterparts.
“The data here are at odds with media accounts suggesting that young college graduates are finding it much more difficult to get jobs, are accepting much less desirable positions and lower wages when they can get jobs, and are increasingly ‘camping out' at home and in schools when they cannot get jobs,” the report states.
The report isn't the first to suggest that higher education played a role in how young people weathered the recession. A report released in August by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce showed that almost half of the jobs lost in the recession had been recovered, and nearly all the jobs recovered required some form of postsecondary education.
According to the Georgetown report, jobs that require some college or an associate degree declined by 1.8 million during the recession. But during the recovery, 1.6 million of those jobs were recovered.
At the same time, 5.8 million jobs for those with high school credentials or less have been lost since the onset of the recession.
Oklahoma higher education Chancellor Glen Johnson said the nationwide shift toward college-level jobs exists in Oklahoma, as well. The higher education system has made efforts in recent years to link its programs with industries that offer jobs in the state, including wind turbine technology, nursing and aerospace.
A better-educated workforce is also an asset to the state as a whole, Johnson said, because college degree attainment leads to a higher per capita income and a stronger economy overall.
“There is significant value to a person earning a college degree,” he said.