It’s a parent’s nightmare: shelling out big money for college, then seeing the graduate unable to land a job that requires high-level skills. This situation may be growing more common, unfortunately, because the demand for cognitive skills associated with higher education, after rising sharply until 2000, has since been in decline.
So concludes new research carried out by economists Paul Beaudry and David Green of the University of British Columbia and Benjamin Sand of York University in Toronto.
This reversal in demand has caused high-skilled workers to accept lower-level jobs, pushing lower-skilled people even further down the occupational ladder or out of work altogether.
If the researchers are right (which is not yet clear), the consequences are huge and troubling – and not just for college graduates and their parents.
Let’s start with some basic facts. There have always been some graduates who wind up in jobs that don’t require a college degree. But the share seems to be growing.
In 1970, only one in 100 taxi drivers and chauffeurs in the US had a college degree, according to an analysis of labour statistics by Ohio University’s Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart and Jonathan Robe. Today, 15 out of 100 do.
It’s hard to believe this is because the skill required to drive a taxi has risen substantially since 1970.
If anything, GPS technology may have had the opposite effect.
Similarly, in 1970, only about 2 percent of fire fighters had a college degree, compared with more than 15 percent now, Vedder and his colleagues found. And, according to research by economists Paul Harrington and Andrew Sum of Northeastern University, about one in four bartenders has some sort of degree.
Beaudry and his colleagues say that such change has been driven by a decline in the demand for highly skilled work – the opposite of the conventional wisdom about such demand.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor