PSEO Data Connect Talent Credentials, Geographic Flow & Earnings


The data show computer and information sciences students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison go on to earn lucrative salaries. Many go to work for healthcare software company Epic Systems.

Photo by Focal Flame Photography courtesy of Destination Madison

In June the U.S. Census Bureau released data for institutions from six new data partners in the Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes (PSEO) experimental data product. It was an invitation to experiment a bit with sorting those data.

What is PSEO? It’s a dataset of experimental tabulations developed by the Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies' Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) Research program that provides earnings and employment outcomes for college and university graduates by degree level, degree major and post-secondary institution. The statistics are generated by matching university transcript data with a national database of jobs, “using state-of-the-art confidentiality protection mechanisms to protect the underlying data,” says the Bureau.

After having data from only Texas and Colorado as recently as 2018, PSEO now includes data on 825 institutions from 27 states which cover more than 29% of all college graduates in the United States in 2015. All the data is downloadable or accessible for research via the PSEO Explorer tool. Graduate earnings are available at the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles for one, five, and 10 years after graduation. Employment Flows provide industry and location of employment for graduates.



“Economic considerations drive a number of college decisions — whether to attend college, where to attend, and what major to select,” the Bureau explains. “Given the resources required to attend college, students want to know whether programs are likely to have a sufficient return to justify their expense. Prospective students would also like to know what labor markets recent graduates are working in and whether or not they are employed in an industry appropriate for their training.”

Employers would like to know those things too.

Warning: Be ready for some serious exploration. The full spreadsheet of credentials and post-secondary earnings data has more than 344,000 rows.

But you can sort those rows if you want. The Employment Flows option will tell you whether graduates of a particular institution or area of study at that institution are staying in the region or flying the coop. For example, it appears that nearly half of the almost 20,000 engineering baccalaureate students at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) remain in Georgia one year after matriculating, with another 2,500 spread across the South Atlantic region. At the masters degree level five years after leaving the institution, the split is more balanced among Georgia, the South Atlantic and the West Coast.

PSEO data show masters degree students in engineering from Georgia Tech migrate toward professional, scientific and technical services and manufacturing, with a geographic split five years on among Georgia, the West Coast and the South Atlantic region.

Earnings are reported in 2020 dollars. The PSEO tool also allows for adjustment of cohorts by year, so users can see how earnings change for graduates of the same course at the same institution.

Then there is the nature of that phrase “experimental tabulations.” Among the limitations set out by the Bureau:

  • “College Scorecard data from the U.S. Department of Education are restricted to federal aid recipients, who may not be representative of the student population. College Scorecard data also include everyone who enrolled in the institution and does not separate out those that received a degree from those who did not.”
  • “PayScale, a commercial website, publishes earnings by institution and degree, but relies on voluntary self-reported earnings, not generally considered a scientifically valid sampling method. Many states, such as Texas, have matched transcript data to state job records to produce statistics on earnings and employment for graduates. However, state administrative data systems cannot follow students out of state, biasing earnings and employment downward in the matched data.”

Indeed, the Texas focus on data yields meaningful and actionable findings. Texas CREWS (Consumer Resource for Education and Workforce Statistics), a joint project of the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, offers interactive dashboards that “help you compare Texas public universities, public colleges, majors and career schools based on graduate wages, student loan levels, graduation rates and more.”

One of the best resources is also one of the schools listed above: Texas A&M, where the data science department offers regular analyses of PSEO and other national and state workforce data.

PSEO is just one subset of a gold mine of LEHD data that cover 96% of employment in the United States and serve as source data for the U.S. Census Bureau's Quarterly Workforce Indicators (QWI), LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (LODES), and, perhaps of most interest as yet another valuable Census Bureau resource for corporate real estate professionals and site consultants, Job-to-Job Flows (J2J). — Adam Bruns

A screen grab from the PSEO Explorer tool shows the flow of education program graduates from Clemson University by industry sector and by geography.

Image courtesy of U.S. Census Bureau