Thursday, April 01, 2004

College Grads and Unemployment

George linked to this report, called unemployment level of college grads surpasses that of high-school dropouts, and finishes with a good question:
"The graph shown in figure two should be more alarming, though its trends be not so steep - it depicts unemployed as a percentage of those two populations, and actually shows a decrease in unemployment for high school drop outs, but a steady increase for college graduates. What, if anything, do these statistics tell us about the needs of learners today?"
It mostly tells us about supply and demand, Doug would say. Too many people with degrees and not enough good work for them. This is a topic dear to my heart, so in a fit of narcissism I googled around my site and pulled out the relevant posts. Probably the most interesting link was this illuminating table showing where the most job openings are showing up in Wisconsin -- low-wage positions requiring no post-secondary education. Similar ideas:When the employment demand for arts and general science grads declines past a certain point, eventually there has to be a correction in the supply. It's not hard to envision an emerging split after most people realize that the standard four-year degree just isn't cutting it anymore. More people will join the educational arms race and continue on to graduate degrees, potentially making them as irrelevant as bachelor's degrees.

Worker shortages in the skilled trades and technical vocations should drive up wages to the point where more people will be choosing to become electricians instead of wasting four years on university history and biology. Not that money is everything, but the problem is that most students believe they're following the dollars by getting into college in the first place. Self-employment numbers also continue to rise, and everyone's figured out that you don't need a degree to start a business. But nobody wants to be on the outside looking in (on prosperity), so until we stop believing that degrees are the only way to get good jobs, we'll keep increasing the supply of grads until the demand drops to zero.

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