More Ph.D.s needing food stamps

Graduate degree holders took more public assistance between 2007 and 2010, but still were fewer than 1% of the total.

By Jason Notte Jan 10, 2013 5:44PM

Image: Money jar (Big Cheese Photo/PictureQuest)When students pursue a graduate degree to make a little extra money, just about none of them expect that added cash to come from food stamps.

Between 2007 and 2010, the number of people with master's degrees and doctorates who have had to apply for food stamps, unemployment or other assistance more than tripled, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Census data released in March 2011 indicates that while 22 million Americans held master's degrees or higher in 2010, about 360,000 were receiving public assistance.

By those numbers, graduates with doctorates fared only slightly better than those holding master's degrees. While more than 293,000 master's recipients needed public assistance in 2010, up from 102,000 in 2007, nearly 34,000 doctorate recipients used food stamps and other assistance programs. That's a sizable increase from the 9,800 doctorate holders who needed support back in 2007, but these numbers in a vacuum don't tell the complete story.

For example, Census numbers don't indicate what fields of study those degrees covered, which would make it a lot easier to identify low-demand job segments. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics sees increasing demand for registered nurses, for example, Ph.D.s looking to become judges aren't nearly as coveted.

Also, while the folks at OnlineColleges pointed out that 5,000 doctorate recipients worked as janitors in 2010 while 21% of graduates holding a bachelor's degree or better worked as customer service representatives that year, they failed to mention when students attained those degrees or if those jobs were their primary means of employment. In either equation, both masters and doctorate recipients are far better off in the job market than those with some college experience or none at all.

Students with associate degrees, for example, are faced with a slew of careers experiencing declines in job numbers. Want to be an aerospace technician, air traffic controller or forest and conservation technician? Good luck with that. High school grads, meanwhile, are looking at a work environment where dozens of jobs with entry-level or mid-level pay are evaporating.

As OnlineColleges points out, one in six Americans received food stamps in 2011. That's about 52.5 million people, which means even if every graduate degree holder on public assistance was on food stamps, they'd be less than 1% of the total.

The recession proved that degrees aren't necessarily a guarantee of future employment. That said, they don't seem to hurt a recipient's odds, either.

More on Money Now

Jan 10, 2013 9:16PM
The 360,000 recipients make up only 1.6% of the 22 million people with advanced degrees just to put it in perspective so I'm not surprised.  You basically qualify for food stamps if you make less than about $20,000 a year in most states, so if you're recently graduated and don't have a job I would expect them to collect.
Jan 10, 2013 9:08PM
When the US elected a terrorist for the second term this is what you get. HOPE= DESTROY AMERICA FROM WITHIN.CHANGE=DESTROY AMERICA FROM WITHIN!!!!!!!!!!!  Oh no, my German Shepherd is barking, I think the Obama secret-secret service is here to kill me!!! 
Jan 10, 2013 9:08PM
The idea of getting educated is so you can get a good paying job when you get out of school. The problem is,people like Obama,think that means getting a 4 year college degree. That guarantees you exactly ZERO. If you are going to go in debt to get a higher education you need to know what fields you can get a job in when you graduate. Most 4 year colleges can,t begin to tell you all you need to know. They are left wing liberal gin mills who don't want to teach,they want to indoctrinate. If you seriously want a good job after graduation look to some of the better trade schools. These schools are placing anywhere from 95-100% of their graduates. The grads are walking into jobs starting at $20 to $25 an hour right out of school. The one in Michigan that was on ,I think, 20/20 not long ago said they have placed 100% of their grads for the past 5 years. They had employers on there with 300 plus job openings and no hires because there weren't any qualified people. There are still some very good paying jobs available,you just need to put in the time and effort to find them and what you need to do to get them.
Jan 10, 2013 9:01PM

'By those numbers, graduates with doctorates fared only slightly better than those holding master's degrees. While more than 293,000 master's recipients needed public assistance in 2010, up from 102,000 in 2007, nearly 34,000 doctorate recipients used food stamps and other assistance programs. That's a sizable increase from the 9,800 doctorate holders who needed support back in 2007, but these numbers in a vacuum don't tell the complete story.'


How is that only slightly better? What is the distribution by field? Region of the country? State?

If this info is not easily available, please find it before publishing!  More useful information is needed in this article?

Jan 10, 2013 8:59PM
Everyone is criticizing people with degrees, but nobody is commenting on the apalling statistic that 1 in 6 Americans gets foodstamps?  How it that hope and change working for you?
Jan 10, 2013 8:58PM

what a colossal tragedy that no matter how much education you get it does not guarantee anything.  lets not forget the student loans that some have to pay.  there is something wrong when an education does not help.  Now what


Jan 10, 2013 8:52PM
Educated derelicts.  What the world does not need is another liberal arts major, attorney or Democrat.  We need to increase the cost of educating these people, so they don't go after these degrees, and decrease the cost for hard sciences, math and engineering.  My son didn't bother to go to college, so he started up two companies and he hires college grads at low wages.
Jan 10, 2013 8:51PM
I had an employee with a PHD in some narrow field with limited jobs....she worked for $10-12 an hour and was eventually a challenge the last year plus - she wanted to get fired to receive unemployment....if she quit the application is more challenging......It's not the degree, its the person.  In this case the person continued to get education to probably to avoid working...once working, did not want a real full time job.
Jan 10, 2013 8:50PM

Heck - I know 'brilliant' people who went to Yale for an undergrad, the Pepperdine for a masters...guess what they do?


Real Estate....

Jan 10, 2013 8:50PM
We are also losing a lot of jobs to foreign workers on the H1B1 (something like that).  My brother is one of those computer IT people working with guys they come from India.  I asked my brother if Americans could do those jobs and he said yes.  It's cheaper for companies to hire people from India.  If Romney had been elected there would a lot more visas for these people to take jobs Americans could do.  Obama will probably allow an increase of those visas too.  So you illegal immigrants stealing lot of job at one end and visa workers taking jobs in the middle and top. 
Jan 10, 2013 8:49PM
i have a MBA and over the last five years, i've been unemployed cumulatively for three of them. the timing of my MBA was perfect; i got it in 2008, just in time for the recession. so far, it hasn't done me a bit of good but hopefully that will change in 2013. right now i do phone sales. i effing HATE it, but at least it's a job. 
Jan 10, 2013 8:49PM
It's interesting that the statement "both masters and doctorate recipients are far better off in the job market than those with some college experience or none at all" indicates quite clearly that the only path to success is a degree of some form.

Hmm, "the only path to success is a degree..", a degree in carpentry, a degree in mechanical repair... LOL

I have a number of friends apparently failing very successfully in a number of jobs that they hold, all without a single degree among them.

Get a degree, work at Starbucks for pocket change, do any of those "trivial" jobs the degree holders can't do... look who's working, making a significant income, AND look who isn't going to spend the next 20 plus years paying for that magic degree.

LOL, "both masters and doctorate recipients are far better off in the job market than those with some college experience or none at all", I don't think so...

Jan 10, 2013 8:47PM
You can finally prove your parents wrong that a higher education doesn't get you more money or a job.
Jan 10, 2013 8:47PM
Undergrad and grad education cost has skyrocketed the last 20 years. Add to this, the colleges offers many unnecessary classes and degrees that will lead to no jobs or incomes. The students are told to "follow their dreams" and not look into reality. It is nothing wrong with following your dream AFTER you have gotten real information about the benefit of a class/degree and its cost. Education is always an asset, but a useful education will also bring home some money for a decent lifestyle. To tackle the problem: affordable targeted education options, raise the minimum pay.
Jan 10, 2013 8:44PM

Where are the judgemental commenters who troll these sites blaming everything on Obama, and tagging every black person as being "on the government dole?"


Life is rough these days. In order to think and survive, your body and brain need fuel (food) to keep it going. Everyone can't mooch off mom until they find a job...

Jan 10, 2013 8:41PM
I lost a 9.50/hour manufacturing job and decided to pursue my dream of being an accountant/bookkeeper. What a joke! After 2 years of schooling to earn a certificate in accounting and another year and a half of unemployment, (3.31 GPA not the best, but not too bad)) I got a job starting at 10.00 dollars an hour doing manufacturing. WOW! How my education helped me.   Foodstamps should be able to be used to re-pay school loans.
Jan 10, 2013 8:38PM
Ph.D.s don't aim to become judges.  Judges hold Juris Doctorates, or J.Ds.  And, indeed, my Juris Doctorate was a total waste of money.
Jan 10, 2013 8:37PM
If I had continued to pursue my doctorate in clinical neuro-psychology it would have cost me 1/4 of a million dollars!
Jan 10, 2013 8:16PM

I hold a masters degree in Psychology with an emphasis in the health education since the recession many of the counseling positions that were once funded no longer exist.  I lost my job as a disabilities counselor at a community college due to funding cuts.  The criteria to counsel independently has become stricter while the jobs actually available have decreased. 


I know many people with advanced degrees that have applied for jobs they are way overqualified and I know one person that did reach the point of having to apply for food stamps to feed her kids as she was the only provider.  No one is immune.

Jan 10, 2013 8:14PM
I still remember my mother's advice. She was only her discertation away from receiving her doctorate in computer science when she left school. When I asked her why she quit so close to receiving her PHD she said: "I only went this far because I wanted to know if I could do it. Besides having a PHD could only hurt me. Potential employers might think I'm over-qualified, or that I might ask for more money than they're willing to pay. So they wouldn't even ask me to come in for an interview."
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

Trending NOW

What’s this?


[BRIEFING.COM] Equity indices have climbed out of the gate with support from most economic sectors. The S&P 500 trades higher by 0.3% with the financial sector (+0.7%) showing relative strength for the second day in a row.

Likewise, the materials sector (+0.5%) also finds itself among the early leaders after displaying relative strength yesterday. Meanwhile, the remaining cyclical groups hover a bit closer to their flat lines.

On the downside, energy (-0.2%) and utilities ... More