Intercom Online......May 4, 2000

Focus on Research

Gordon DeJong, distinguished professor of sociology and demography,
goes over data with Pamela M. Klein, doctoral student in sociology and demography.
Their research illustrates the link between a college degree and personal income.

Photo: Greg Grieco

College degree found to be central
to career success in Pennsylvania

By Paul A. Blaum
Public Information

Young workers in today's economy will find career success elusive without a college degree, at least in Pennsylvania, according to a study.

"Compared to young workers equipped with only a high school diploma, even some college training doesn't make that much difference in personal income," said Gordon F. DeJong, distinguished professor of sociology and demography.

"During the boom years of 1995-97, Pennsylvania workers aged 18-39 with only a high school degree had a median annual income barely over $18,000. Surprisingly enough, U.S. Census data revealed that workers with an associate degree or some college completed had about the same median income as high school-only graduates."

This evidence suggests that the real income benefit for Pennsylvania workers comes from completing four or more years of college, said DeJong, who did his research with Pamela M. Klein, doctoral student in sociology and demography.

"Failure to obtain higher education exacts a heavy price," Klein said. "In 1995-97, a robust state economy created strong demand for both white and blue collar workers. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate was six times higher for young high school dropouts and 2.6 times higher for workers who stopped with a high school degree than for college graduates."

In another example of occupational difference based on educational level, 88 percent of graduate and professional degree holders and 58 percent of baccalaureate degree graduates held professional and managerial positions. By contrast, only 2 percent of high school dropouts and 8 percent of workers with a high school diploma were in professional or management positions. At the same time, 40 percent of high school dropouts and 28 percent of high school diploma-only workers were operators, fabricators or laborers, the researchers said.

In 1995-97, only 2 percent of workers aged 18-39 with a college degree earned an income below the poverty line. This compares with 24 percent of the high school dropouts and 9 percent of the workers with only a high school diploma. In 1997, the official poverty threshold was $8,350 per year for a working-age individual, DeJong said.

"In the U.S. and Pennsylvania economy of the 21st century, education and experience, rather than inheritance, political affiliation or family ownership, will increasingly be the primary criteria for good jobs and successful employment for most workers," said Klein.

The researchers used data from the March 1995-March 1997 nationwide Current Population Survey, collected by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. This survey polled 3,009 Pennsylvania men and women ages 18-39 who the Census Bureau officially defined as full-time or part-time workers, or were unemployed and looking for work.

Clinical study researches causes
of diabetic eye disease

Researchers at The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are enrolling patients in a study of the possible causes and progression of diabetic macular edema.

Diabetic macular edema is a leading cause of severe visual loss in the United States, according to the study's principal investigator, Dr. Thomas Gardner, professor of ophthalmology and cellular and molecular physiology.

"Previous research into diabetic retinopathy suggests that diabetes triggers activation of protein kinase C. Protein kinase C may be a factor in the growth of abnormal blood vessels, causing diabetic retinopathy, and leakage of fluid into the macula, causing macular degeneration," he said.

Clinicians nationwide are participating in this study. Hershey Medical Center is one of two study sites in Pennsylvania; the second is Scheie Eye Institute in Philadelphia. The study objective is to see if inhibiting protein kinase C is effective in delaying the progression of diabetic retinopathy. The study will also investigate the need for laser treatment for this condition.

Diabetic retinopathy affects the retina, the eye's thin light-sensitive inner lining, and can cause severe visual loss if left untreated. Macular edema, which occurs when fluid leaks into the center of the retina, causes blurred or decreased "straight ahead" vision.

Researchers hope that inhibiting the action of protein kinase C will prevent the development of proliferative diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular degeneration.

To enroll in this trial, a patient must be age 18 or older, be diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and have visual acuity of 20/32 or better in the eye under study and have swelling in the eye's macular region. If you meet these preliminary criteria, call (717) 531-4696 for more information.

Diet plays key role in appetite control

In a recent study, young men who ate a lunch including mashed potatoes prepared with heart-healthy, mono-unsaturated oil stayed satiated longer than when they ate the same lunch with either rice or mashed potatoes prepared with polyunsaturated oil.

"Rice prepared with polyunsaturated oil was the least effective in delaying the return to hunger over an eight-hour test period," said S.E. Specter, assistant professor of nutrition and first author of the international research team's report.

"Speaking practically, these preliminary data suggest that the type of oil you cook with may affect satiety," he said. "Our study indicates that mono-unsaturated oils, which other researchers have shown can help lower cardiovascular disease risk, also could be important in helping control appetite."

Specter's co-authors are Bernard Guy Grand, head of the departments of nutrition and internal medicine at Hôtel Dieu, J-L. Joannic, S. Auboiron, J. Raison, M. Champs, A. Basdevant and F.R.J. Bornet.

From an appetite control standpoint, the data suggest that all calories from fat may not be the same and all calories from starch may not be the same. However, Specter cautions that physiological signals are complex and there is a need for further study.


Expert makes life better for children and adults

Claudia Probart, associate professor of nutrition, has made it her life's ambition to educate others on the value of good nutrition. But as technology has exploded with innovative new ways to communicate and learn, Probart has had to adapt with the times to continue trying to make life better for children and adults.

Her latest contribution is a video documentary highlighting successful practices and processes that schools are using to incorporate federal guidelines. She hopes the program will become a model for schools nationwide that need to make similar changes in their food service programs.

Another key component of Probart's research involves the creation of two award-winning interactive computer programs for middle school children: "A Drop of Water," an environmental health and water pollution program funded by the National Institutes of Health; and "Students Serving it Safe," a program on food-safety issues funded partially by the American School Food Service Foundation. Go to for the full story.

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