Phi Beta Cons

Some Praise for Carnevale’s Latest Study

I haven’t read it yet, but Neal McCluskey finds the latest study released by Anthony Carnevale’s Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce to be valuable. Neal’s take on it is here.

The reason for his praise is that the study demonstrates that college credentials aren’t necessarily like winning lottery tickets, and the failure to get those credentials is not a guaranteed trip to the poorhouse. Some individuals who never went to college do very well, and some individuals who went to college for a long time don’t do well at all. That makes you suspect that innate personal qualities count for more than formal education does.

Nevertheless, the study concludes, “No matter how you cut it, more education pays.” That’s clearly not the case. Education (which is now largely the quest for credentials rather than learning) is a positional good. If everyone gets more of it, that won’t make every job pay more. Workers are paid on the basis of the value of their production and “more education pays” only to the extent that it raises a person’s productive capability. Sometimes college work does that, but not often.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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