Bad News for Young College Workers: Part III

Posted by: Michael Mandel on September 08

I’m sorry for obsessing about this, but I can’t help it. I really do wonder whether we’ve passed over a critical threshold where a college degree alone is no longer enough.

The youngest workers are the ones who are at most risk. Real earnings for workers aged 25-34 with a bachelor’s degree have fallen by almost 10% since 2000. Young college-educated workers saw their real earnings drop by 5% in 2004 alone. That’s astounding, and very depressing.

incomeinequality_4834_image001.gif


This chart plots real wages for young, full-time workers with a bachelor’s degree only. What kind of a labor market is this?

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Reader Comments

Lord

September 9, 2005 03:40 PM

What really makes this hurt is the rising cost of an education, but produce more and the price falls. I read of another promotion of math and science in public schools but they really have it backwards; demand more workers with those skills and the supply will follow. The growth areas have been education, finance, government, leisure, and healthcare. I would have told them to go into real estate but that may be waning now. There is always that lamest of suggestions, "they are bright, they will figure something out", maybe like not going to college.

Kelly Mactrise

September 9, 2005 08:14 PM

I am a new student at Long Beach St in Long Beach California, What are the new graduates in 4 to 5 years going to be doing but worring about what kind of jobs are out there for us, all my life, I hear go to college to get a good job and my friends graduate and they cant find jobs and are telling me to be realistic about our ecomony and what life style I will have, it will be the same, I live in a appartment and I want to like in a house and have a family but i feel that all my hard work is for nothing and i will not be able to work for a good company, but all of the interview i go on they tell me it is important to have a bachlors degree, and it will give you more money, but I guess that is not the case anymore
what are all of the college gradutes suppost to do in 4 to 5 years,?
Kelly Mactrise

Lord

September 11, 2005 07:08 PM

Enjoy it for what it's worth and learn as much as you can about and for yourself. Consider what business you would like to start and do it. The weakness of education is it trains employees, not entrepreneurs. Don't look to a company to do anything for you; you are just an expense to them. Rely only on yourself. That is much more difficult than going to school though.

bob2006

September 14, 2005 08:44 AM

The US education system requires an overhaul at the university level. While prestige schools will always exist and on substantially their own terms, the rest of the education industry should provide flexible education.

For example, in about 20 years, when little Heather or Brad find themselves as middle aged and mediocre, they will become prime layoff candidates. They will be on a downward slope to Wal-Mart level living. Their only salvation will be a rapid re-education in a relevant field.

But wait. Junior college takes 2 years. A two semester sequence takes almost one year. Anything significant would take even longer. What a waste of time!

Schools should find a way to package usable job skills into defined and fluid programs. This packaged learning should allow entry at any time and allow people to progress at their own pace. Legimate universities, not questionable internet schools, should support this program and add their name to the certificate or degree conferred at completion.

There currently are bits and pieces of what I am describing. But they are hard to find and too obscure to have credibility at the job interview.

Joe I.

September 24, 2005 09:31 PM

The main reason is global competetion. My capital can buy an employee with perfect English skills and a college degree at half the starting salary a US employee would cost to do the same job. My consulting firm just bought this in the form of all our accounting is now done in India except for the final audit. This is the reason for the decline in my opinion.

Wes

September 29, 2005 02:27 PM

I agree a lot with Lord.

Colleges are turning out many college-educated idiots. (I have a B.S. degree). These people understand theory but cannot apply it to real life scenarios. Unfortunately college only provides (for many) a fast track to the consumerism lifestyle....fancy cars, clothes, houses without savings anything for the future and spending 110% of earnings. This image is perpetuated by the fact that many co-workers also participate in this lifestyle making it nothing more than the blue-collar rat race.

I.E. Walmart workers are comparing car stereo systems trying to outdo each other while computer scientists are comparing houses trying to outdo each other.

In the future, anything less than a Masters' degree will be on par with today's high school degree.

Pete

October 2, 2005 10:21 PM

Where did the data on the chart Real Earnings of Young College Educated come from? I am conducting research on this very topic.

Mike Mandel

October 3, 2005 12:20 PM

Pete,

I did the calculations for the young college educated myself, based on Census Bureau income data.

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.

 

About

Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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