A new American Compass research brief: The False Promise of Good Jobs exposed the great myth is that globalization has shifted the U.S. labor market’s trajectory, reducing demand for less educated workers while increasing it for college degree holders. However, employers lament “skills gaps” and their lobbyists argue that more foreign talent must be imported for the economy to remain competitive. Bull.
Reality: over past 20 years we’ve added college graduates twice as fast as jobs requiring a degree.
Workers holding at least a college degree accounted for 97% of net worker growth in U.S. labor market from 2000-2019. 41% of net job growth required a high school degree or less.
The share of American jobs requiring a college degree has increased in recent decades, however, workers holding college degrees has risen much faster. For tens of millions of Americans holding such degrees, no such jobs exist. The crime is that for most of the jobs that do exist, which still require only a high school degree, wages have stagnated.
This analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data finds that:
- From 2000 to 2019, the U.S. labor market added 22 million workers over the age of 25 with at least a bachelor’s degree (BA+) but only 10 million jobs requiring at least a bachelor’s degree.
- While BA+s accounted for 97% of net worker growth, 41% of net job growth required a high school degree or less.
- In 2019, BA+ jobs still accounted for just 27% of the workforce, but they captured 75% of the total 2000–19 increase in wages paid. While the wage distribution for BA+ jobs shifted significantly upward over the period, the distribution for other jobs did not.
- For BA+ jobs, the share paying 200–400% of the poverty line for a family of four fell from 84% to 73% while the share paying >400% rose from 9% to 19%.
- Non-BA jobs saw a net shift of two points from jobs paying below the poverty line to ones paying between 100–400% of the poverty line.
- Jobs requiring some college or an associate’s degree did not perform like BA+ jobs; they performed little better than jobs requiring a high school degree or less. Jobs requiring some college saw annual wage growth of less than two-tenths of one percent, slightly above wage growth for jobs requiring a high school degree or less; wages for BA+ jobs grew three times faster.
- The labor market saw a net shift of 4 million workers from high-school-or-less to some-college, but it added only 1 million jobs requiring some college.
Public education, in general is total garbage, but pushing more young Americans through the broken, and very expensive college pipeline will do nothing to address these dynamics. Economic reforms must alter the pattern of growth in labor market demand.
Over education is driving elite overproduction. This is socially disruptive and is a key driver behind cancel culture.
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