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 11, 2013 4:26PM
Being a retired State Human Services caseworker, administering Food Stamps to clients was a part of my caseload.  It varies from state to state, but qualification to get Food Stamps depends on your income, period, and you are able to use deductions such as verifiable medical expenses to reach that monthly low income requirement.  As far as the comments re state or federal employees who don't do their job, I beg to differ.  It is just like any company, there are good and bad employees and shouldn't be stereotyped by working for the state or feds.  I was a dedicated employee with a huge caseload of 250 clients.  I worked with families and community to allow disabled and elderly to stay in their homes with services.  I prided myself on making a difference, which I did...Also the inane comments about advanced education.  I also have a BA in Human Services Management, something I consider a great accomplishment as I was an adult student and obtained my degree while parenting and working.  I know college is not for everyone, but please don't degrade us that want to move forward and expand our minds through learning and work hard to get it.     
Jan 11, 2013 1:55AM
I bet 90% of those Ph.D.s voted for Obama.  Which means...4 more years of public assistance and NO JOBS.
Jan 10, 2013 11:51PM

First to Marc.  Just what type of engineering is your speciality?    The current unemployment rate for STEM is 2.5%.  If you have a doctorate in engineering and cannot find a job, you have something wrong with you.   Were you in prison, filed bankruptsy or just what?   If you have any experience in mining, you can check with the mining companies in Nevada.   There are 3 mines opening not far from Ely.   Two outside Eureka and one north of McGill.   Even with a construction or mechanical experience you should be able to get a job as an engineer.  There is no reason for you to be working as a cashier in a casino unless you will not move from Vegas.  It does no good to get a PhD in a field where there is no work and no future.    Before spending the time and money, you had better look at the job market.  



Jan 10, 2013 11:51PM

Bet,more than 75% of Chicago govt workers, who actually do nothing are HS grads, tops.
But they get union pay which puts them way above the private sector with guaranteed raises.

Jan 10, 2013 10:52PM
Until the people who have never had any of these problems or been hit with any of the corporate greed without rules and legal crime against the people, until they've actually been down and out and had to go get food boxes, food stamps, heating assistance and any other kind of aid to keep from starving, freezing etc etc............ then they've never walked in that man's shoes have they? They don't have to a pot to you know what in and have not a clue because it shows in the stupidity of their comments running down people that are poor and have so much less than they, the unemployed, the underemployed, the poverty stricken, the list goes on. As long as you aren't in that boat you can run your mouths to run them into the ground? No morals, no values, no humanity seems to run rampant anymore. 
Jan 10, 2013 10:28PM

Phds on food stamps. Wow! I bet the ****s voted for Obozo anyway.


And most of us know:


BS = ****

MS = More ****

Phd = Piled High and Deep.

Jan 10, 2013 10:03PM
The type of degree you get matters.  I worked as a house painter during the summer to help pay for college.  A guy I worked with had graduated 4-5 years earlier with a B.A. degree in history and he was painting houses right along side me.  I earned my degree in engeering and was hired a couple of months after graduation.  I've been employed as an engineer ever since, for the last 30 years.
Jan 10, 2013 9:43PM
My comment goes out to "Matt the Hat". Online has the same accreditation as Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and NYU just to name a few. If online was not accredited the U.S. government would not release funds. Oh yeh, best of luck with Doctorate of Theory, loser. 
Jan 10, 2013 9:42PM
I dropped out of HS at 16 and got my GED. I then took every computer certification I could over the next few years. 20 years later I'm still a HS drop out making 6 figures running the IT department at mutli national company.
Jan 10, 2013 9:40PM
I've got a Master's in Management. Yet, the jobs I've applied for? I've been turned down because I don't have a PhD. So I don't think the idea of having a PhD automatically makes you an over-qualified, money grubbing job hunter. It does make you educated and competitive and if I had the choice, I'd rather be educated and competitive than uneducated.
Jan 10, 2013 9:36PM

It looks like one form of inflation is rearing its ugly head - educational inflation. Look at all the intellectuals pumping coffee at Starbucks. It reminds me of the song from Annie, We'd Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover. It doesn't just apply to Bush or Obama; it applies to all of our political "leaders."


We'd like to thank you: Herber Hoover
For really showing us the way 
We'd like to thank you: Herbert Hoover 
You made us what we are today 

Prosperity was 'round the corner 
The cozy cottage built for two
In this blue heaven 
That you
Gave us 

We're turning blue! 
They offered us Al Smith and Hoover
We paid attention and we chose
Not only did we pay attention 
We paid through the nose. 

In ev'ry pot he said "a chicken" 
But Herbert Hoover he forgot 
Not only don't we have the chicken 
We ain't got the pot! 
Hey Herbie 

You left behind a greatful nation

So, Herb, our hats are off to you
We're up to here with admiration 

Come down and have a little stew 

Come down and share some Christmas dinner
Be sure to bring the missus too
We got no turkey for our stuffing
We'd like to thank you, Herbert Hoover 
For really showing us the way 
You dirty rat, you Bureaucrat, you
Made us what we are today
Come and get it, Herb!

Jan 10, 2013 9:35PM
The last degree I got, I didn't even tell my employer. Would not have increase my pay and might have increased my workload, so xcrew it.
Jan 10, 2013 9:32PM
They probably should.  Look at some of their majors!  They may have a degree but no education.  Look at CONGRESS!  Most of them are rich and many are lawyers. Does that make them smart??? Look at the national debt!  They can't do simple math!  NOTE TO CONGRESS!!!!!  IT IS NOT SENSIBLE TO GIVE AID TO OTHER COUNTRIES FROM BORROWED MONEY!!!  One other note to CONGRESS.  What do I call 535 BASS-TURDS in one room??? CONGRESS!!  You know the saying:  A PH-D is only more Bugstuff Piled Higher and Deeper!
Jan 10, 2013 9:32PM
My question is why are people paying for advanced degrees? Most Universities have fellowship and assistanship programs that will provide a graduate student with earnings (wages) and tution remission. This is regardless of the field in which they are studying. Also, in most of the science/math/engineering/education fields, there is enough grant money to provide additional assistance to individuals studying in those areas.
Jan 10, 2013 9:31PM

I feel that higher education is always beneficial.  However, if possible I wish more students would consider perhaps working and going to school at the same time.  It is always easier to find a job when you already have one. 

Jan 10, 2013 9:29PM
PhD stands for piled high and deep
Jan 10, 2013 9:27PM
I have worked in higher education and I have advanced degrees and I was pressured and convinced by Admission and shown the nice brochures and pamphlets on how having these degrees will increase your earning potential. Now, that I have higher education experience and the student experience, it has really opened my eyes to see more clearly. In a nutshell, it is a business. The schools where the degrees are earned and who hire the students with Master degrees are not even willing to pay. Just goes to show again, its business. People probably better off trying to be in the entertainment or sports world. You will never become wealthy from achieving a degree. Most Athletes and entertainers have never stepped foot into a college. Many of them make millions, but supposedly going to college is a part of the american dream. Well dream on because in reality, it is apart of the American debt. I am currently writing a book now to educate people so they don't make the same mistakes.  If I had to do it again, I would only get a degree if someone else paid for it. I do not have a problem making 10-12 dollars and hour if the company is willing to pay off all of my student loan debt. I only need a job making decent money so I can pay off my loans. Also, I agree with the person speaking about others who come from other countries  that are willing to work for cheap labor. This almost makes a degree even more worthless. You would be better off work at McDonalds by working from the bottom to the top, minus the student loan debt. Who needs a degree to work there. Save yourself time and money by leaving the degrees on the thermometer.
Jan 10, 2013 9:19PM
So, I have to get a doctorate to get on food stamps... I can't afford that.
Jan 10, 2013 9:18PM
some schools pay you to attend to and get your PhD....its all about what you did in the prior 6 years...are any of you published as an example.  Have you networked with professors or people in the industry you hope to get into....
Jan 10, 2013 9:18PM
I'm retired now, and never in my life lived on or accepted any public assistance. Hell, as a retiree I refused Medicare because I like my private insurance. I do have a PhD, but I'll equate it to any credential: its all about what you do with it. Honestly, I worked my butt off. I moonlighted. I never had only one source of income, I had several because I chased them down and earned them.  Any credential, from high school diploma to PhD, is really nothing more than a hint that you might be able to handle employment at a higher level, hopefully in a field you're dedicated to, talented in and enjoy. In the end, its all about how you fight an scrap. I'm honestly puzzled by the degreed underachievers, but I sure see why it happens.
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