Share This Page

Study: Nearly half overqualified for jobs

| Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, 9:34 p.m.

Nearly half of working Americans with college degrees are in jobs for which they're overqualified, a study out on Monday suggests.

And the study, released by the nonprofit Center for College Affordability and Productivity, argues that the trend is likely to continue for newly minted college graduates in the next decade.

“It is almost the new normal,” said lead author Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist and founder of the center, based in Washington.

The number of Americans whose highest academic degree was a bachelor's grew 25 percent to 41 million between 2002 and 2012, statistics released last week from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

The number with associate's degrees increased 31 percent, while the number of Americans for whom the highest level of education attainment was a master's or doctorate degree grew fastest of all — 45 percent and 43 percent, respectively.

Earnings in 2011 averaged $59,415 for people with any earnings ages 25 and older whose highest degree was a bachelor's degree, and $32,493 for people with a high school diploma but no college, the census data show.

Vedder, whose study is based on 2010 Labor Department data, says the problem is the stock of college graduates in the workforce (41.7 million) in 2010 was larger than the number of jobs requiring a college degree (28.6 million).

That, he says, helps explain why 15 percent of taxi drivers in 2010 had bachelor's degrees versus 1 percent in 1970. Among retail sales clerks, 25 percent had a bachelor's degree in 2010. Less than 5 percent did in 1970.

“There are going to be an awful lot of disappointed people because a lot of them are going to end up as janitors,” Vedder says. In 2010, 5 percent of janitors, 115,520 workers, had bachelor's degrees, data show.

Matt Moberg, who provides training for the Cleaning Management Institute in Latham, N.Y., says the percentage of degree-holding janitors was probably smaller before the recession, but adds that those with four-year degrees likely are business owners or workers in online degree programs.

Vedder's findings are at odds with a report released last week by a pro-business public policy organization that seeks to boost financial aid for low-income students.

“Right now you can look around the world and you can see a lot of high-tech, high-value, high-productivity jobs that we are not doing in this country, in part because our country does not have the requisite skills,” says Joe Minarik of the Washington-based Committee for Economic Development.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.