New Data Point on Wasted College Degrees

The question of how many college grads are working in jobs that don’t utilize their degrees — that is, the mal-employment rate — is a tough one. For example, some employers give preference or more pay to applicants with degrees, but are willing to give qualified high-school grads a shot. Does that count?

Typically, I rely on the work of labor expert Andrew Sum, who works with large-scale employment statistics, but recently Pew tried something interesting: It simply asked people whether they thought they were utilizing their degrees. About a third of college grads said they weren’t. Unfortunately, Pew doesn’t seem to have broken that number down by age (many of these folks are recent graduates who will use their degrees eventually).

Another useful stat:

74% say their college education was very useful in helping them grow intellectually; 69% say it was very useful in helping them grow and mature as a person; and 55% say it was very useful in helping them prepare for a job or career.

Obviously, this shows that a lot of people don’t end up thinking college was helpful career-wise — which is good to know for students who are thinking about going to school for the purpose of making more money. I wonder how the respondents interpreted the other questions, though: Do they think they matured more in college than they would have without college, or just that they were more mature at the end of college than at the beginning of it?

Also: If college today has more to do with personal fulfillment than with contributing to the economy, why is the government paying for it?

Hat tip to Neal McCluskey.

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