Make us your home page
Instagram

The fate of the overeducated and underemployed

NEW YORK

Finding a job out of college is hard. Finding a good job that might qualify as the start of a career instead of a stopgap meant to pay the rent is harder.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, about 44 percent of young bachelor's degree holders lucky enough to be working are employed in positions that technically don't require their degree. Though that number isn't far off from the historical norm — 22-year-olds have always needed a little time to find their professional footing — the fraction stuck scraping bottom in truly low-paying jobs has grown quite a bit since the recession.

Research out this week might offer those grads a smidgen of hope about their long-term prospects. It finds that once young adults escape underemployment and find a job that matches their education level, they may catch up to their peers' earning powers within a few years. Unfortunately, it also suggests that escape might be difficult.

The working paper, by economists at Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, draws upon a long-term study that began tracking thousands of adolescents and young adults in 1979. In some senses, this was an especially useful group to look at in the context of today because many in it would have launched their careers during the severe double-dip recession of the early 1980s.

Over time, the researchers found, about 37 percent of four-year college graduates tended to have more education than their jobs required, at least judging by how many years of school their typical colleagues had completed. Among two-year college graduates, the number was closer to 66 percent.

The bad news was that among any group of overeducated workers in a given year, about two-thirds were stuck that way a year later. And the longer they remained underemployed, the lower their personal odds of finding a degree-appropriate job fell. Worse yet, some subjects who started off in an occupation that required their degree later fell into underemployment. Starting their career on the right foot didn't stop them from stumbling down the line.

Those who spent time underemployed also tended to earn lower wages once they finally landed a job that matched their education. Holding factors such as race, sex and cognitive abilities steady, they made 2.6 to 4.2 percent less than their peers. But that's where the good news comes in: After four years, the gap seemed to disappear from the data. All else equal, in other words, the underemployed were capable of making up lost ground.

The bad news in this study is that the wait for the right job might last a while. The good news is that once it's over, workers won't necessarily be playing catchup forever.

The fate of the overeducated and underemployed 06/06/14 [Last modified: Friday, June 6, 2014 6:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Slate.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lost Highway: As FHP struggles to recruit, speeding tickets plummet

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The number of speeding tickets written by Florida state troopers has plunged three straight years as the agency grapples with a personnel shortage and high turnover.

    A Florida Highway Patrol Academy class in the late 1980s. Typically, graduating classes had about 80 recruits. But the most recent class has less than half that as the agency continues to struggle to fill vacancies. [

Florida: Highway Patrol]
  2. Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze

    Retail

    First it was Play-Doh. Then Gak. There have been dozens of variations for sale of the oozy, gooey, squishable, stretchable kids' toy through the generations.

    Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  3. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in

    Consumer

    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  4. Law firm's Russia ties prove nothing about Trump

    Business

    The statement

    "Law firm @POTUS used to show he has no ties to Russia was named Russia Law Firm of the Year for their extensive ties to Russia. Unreal."

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., stands during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Monday, June 20, 2016 in Washington. A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns on Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando's mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  5. Pasco county lawyer disbarred for taking woman's money

    Real Estate

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis.

    The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis. 
[2016 booking photo via Pasco County Sheriff's Office]