Freshmen at baccalaureate-granting institutions cite being able to secure a more attractive job and earn a higher income among the most important factors that influenced their decision to pursue a college or university education. Indeed, higher education has been cast as a reliable on-ramp to the American Dream, a mechanism for reducing income inequality, and a key to enhancing economic competitiveness and growth of states and the nation. These benefits have been emphasized by a chorus of individuals calling for dramatically increasing college degree attainment levels in the United States (U.S.). Yet to what extent and how consistently has higher education delivered these trumpeted outcomes for individuals, states, and the nation?
U.S. Census American Community Survey microdata and typical education requirements of occupations published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics were utilized to quantitatively analyze employment outcomes of college graduates. A special focus was placed on the incidence of malemployment (the phenomenon of college graduates working in occupations that do not require a college degree), relationships between undergraduate degree fields and labor market outcomes, and variations across states in the employment outcomes of college graduates.
The benefits of higher education for individuals and states were found to be highly uneven. Analyses revealed that approximately 31% of adults in the labor force with a bachelor’s degree or higher are malemployed, a rate that varies by undergraduate degree field, educational attainment, race/ethnicity, and age. College earnings premiums generally are far lower for malemployed individuals than for graduates who have secured college-level occupations, and they vary dramatically by undergraduate degree field and state.
Myths about higher education and the labor market were dispelled, such as the notion that malemployment affects only recent graduates and that there generally is an insufficient supply of STEM graduates. The principal propositions of the national attainment agenda were evaluated in light of the study’s findings, and a new framework for that agenda was offered, including a greater focus on the traded sector of the economy, a shift from state leadership to a state/federal partnership, and a suggestion for attainment agenda proponents to embrace a learning quality agenda.
|Commitee:||Finney, Joni, Garland, Peter H., Kelly, Patrick J.|
|School:||University of Pennsylvania|
|Department:||Higher Education Management|
|School Location:||United States -- Pennsylvania|
|Source:||DAI-A 78/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Economics, Public policy, Higher education|
|Keywords:||Attainment agenda, College earnings premium, Educational attainment, Interstate migration, Malemployment, Underemployment|
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