Education Inflation

Like many people I am guilty of helping cause education inflation. I have looked to see what education a person had in spite of the fact that I was seeking an employee with technical skills. We as an American society have pushed for everyone to not only complete high school but also to get a college degree in order to be competitive for almost any occupation. 

Sadly this push has resulted in a significant decline in the value of an education. A person with a high school education may be no better at math and English than a 9th grader of the 1970s.

Between 1980 and 2012, jobs requiring high levels of social interaction grew by nearly 12 percentage points as a share of the US labor force, according to Harvard education researcher David Deming. As a hiring proxy for this, companies started to turn to four-year college degrees.

These trends accelerated during the Great Recession, when employers had a labor surplus to choose from. Of the 11.6 million jobs created between 2010 and 2016, three out of four required at least a bachelor’s degree, and just one out of every 100 required a high school diploma or less.

These changes were documented in a 2017 study led by researchers at Harvard Business School. Their report, “Dismissed by Degrees,” found more than 60 percent of employers rejected otherwise qualified candidates in terms of skills or experience simply because they did not have a college diploma, and that the imperfect BA proxy had many negative consequences for workers and companies alike.

One of the researchers’ most revealing findings was that millions of job postings listed college degree requirements for positions that were currently held by workers without them.

For example, in 2015, 67 percent of production supervisor job postings asked for a four-year college degree, even though just 16 percent of employed production supervisors had graduated from college. Many of these so-called “middle-skill” jobs, like sales representatives, inspectors, truckers, administrative assistants, and plumbers, were facing unprecedented “degree inflation.”

Now the children of those whose degrees have little or no value are being advised by their parents to make the same mistakes they made. The focus in schools should be to educate children such that they can learn to make better choices. Math, science and English should be taught at every level and the students who are especially adept at math and science should be encouraged as they will become the ones who will create a better quality of life for the future.

On the flip side, America has 63% of the world’s lawyers. Lawyers are parasites as they live off of the time/intelligence/energy of productive people. Better to be a producer of goods and services than a parasite.

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3 thoughts on “Education Inflation”

  1. Good points all. I would add that if you ask teens what they want to be today most will say some sort of “influencer.” Most kids want to be a “YouTuber” — whatever that means and when I ask what they are doing now to prepare for that “career” I always get blank stares.

    My issue is not with lawyers, it is with children who watch too much YouTube, play too many video games, etc., and who will grow up to not be producers of anything worth producing.

  2. At one time people understood these things and an enterprising company created a game that, although a ‘game’ tried to help us learn some fundamental facts.

    From Wiki, “The Game of Life, also known simply as Life, is a board game originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley as The Checkered Game of Life, the first ever board game for his own company, the Milton Bradley Company. The Game of Life was US’s first popular parlor game.

    Sometimes, games can imitate life and… because they are games… teach us important lessons about life.

  3. As Mike Rowe says, college is not for everyone. I had my share of college, about 200 semester hours of it, but my best job didn’t require more than technical trade skills, and I loved that job: a locomotive engineer.
    I never focused on a career, but I have always had a job, and if I decided I didn’t like that job, I always had another lined up, well in advance of quitting the last one. I never collected the first dime of unemployment.
    One thing I can say for certain, is that if I had not gone to college, I would have made more money starting in a trade and then opening that trade in a business of my own. Does college increase your salary? That depends. I know plenty of plumbers, mechanics and other trades oriented people whose only difference from the college educated is that they don’t mind getting a little dirty to make their pay, and some are millionaires.
    College should be a path, but not the only path, and government has blinded many to the idea that it is the only path, by jerking people in a direction that may not be close to being suitable to them, in the end.

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