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17 Million College Graduates Are Working in Low-Pay Jobs that High School Graduates Could Do.

Gary North
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Feb. 10, 2011

Professor Richard Vedder, an economist, has reported the following in the professional journal, Chronicle of Higher Education.

Over 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees (over 8,000 of them have doctoral or professional degrees), along with over 80,000 bartenders, and over 18,000 parking lot attendants. All told, some 17,000,000 Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor's degree.

He offered this table to verify his claim.

You can read the article here:

Let's think this through. Karl Marx long ago referred to "the reserve army of the unemployed." His explanation for its existence never made economic sense. But surely we can speak today of the reserve army of the underemployed. Think of these 17 million people, all holding B.A. degrees or higher. They are in dead-end jobs. If they ever get a shot at an entry-level white collar jobs, 90% of them will take them. I suppose 10% will be doing well enough in business, such as electricians or waiters, so that they will not leave. But the others want out, meaning they want in.

These people will serve as low bidders in white collar careers. Entry-level positions will be low-paid positions. Think of some high school graduate competing against a college graduate. What will he offer to the employer that is worth considering? This: "I'll work for minimum wage."

We are not going to see rising wages for most white collar people under 30. Yes, engineers will do well. The best and the brightest out of the 30 best colleges will do well -- anyway, some of them will. But for the vast majority of college grads, let alone high school grads, the next decade will be a nightmare.

The economy will recover, we are told. But this will do nothing for those under people 30. They face the reserve army of the underemployed.

I may hire a few on a piece-rate basis. I can find them on Craigslist. So can you.

Vedder concludes:

I think the American people understand, albeit dimly, the logic above. Increasingly, state governments are cutting back higher-education funding, thinking it is an activity that largely confers private benefits. The pleas of university leaders and governmental officials for more and more college attendance appear to be increasingly costly and unproductive forms of special pleading by a sector that abhors transparency and performance measures.

Higher education is on the brink of big change, like it or not.

I agree entirely.

I conclude: never pay retail for a college education.

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