Why you need a college degree
A new study shows that workers with no more than a high school degree were hit hardest hit by the recession. and they're not benefiting from the recovery.
This post comes from Susan Adams at partner site Forbes.com.
Which group of workers has been hit hardest since the recession started in late 2007? Though the media runs plenty of stories about the plight of college graduates and focuses on differences between male and female job seekers (hence the coining of "mancession"), a new study from Georgetown University shows that the workers who have suffered the most are those with no more than a high school education.
Not only did this group lose millions of jobs when the recession began, its situation has continued to stagnate or worsen during the lackluster recovery. People who did not go to college lost 200,000 jobs from the beginning of 2010 to early 2012, according to the study.
Based on data collected by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the study, by Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce, divided the U.S. workforce of 140 million people into three groups: those who did not go to college, those with some college education or an associate degree, and those with at least a bachelor's degree.
From late 2007 to early 2012, the least-educated group lost a total of 5.8 million jobs, or 10%. The middle group, with some college education, lost far fewer jobs during the recession, and those losses were almost completely reversed by early 2012. In the group with the highest level of education, there was no net job loss during the recession, and the number of people who held jobs climbed 2.2 million, or 5%. (Post continues below video.)
Current unemployment rates continue this trend. While the national rate is 8.3%, the rate is just 4.5% for all four-year college graduates. The rate is higher for recent college grads, at 6.8%, but for recent high school graduates, it's a whopping 24%.
Why is the job market so terrible for less-educated workers? Industries like manufacturing, construction and transportation, in which many of the jobs don't require a college degree, have experienced sharp job losses since the recession started. Since those fields are dominated by men, there has been much coverage of male job losses. But the Georgetown study looked at the sex disparity in unemployment and found that it has narrowed, partly because women have been heavily affected by the decline in education and other government jobs.
Anthony Carnevale, the director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown, talked with The New York Times about the study and noted a silver lining. In recent years, more men than women have gone to school to make themselves more employable. "We seem to have hit the boys hard enough to wake them up," Carnevale told The Times. Carnevale also spoke with National Public Radio and said, "The only thing that's more expensive than going to college is not going to college, so you really don't have a choice."
Carnevale's comments are striking, given the current controversy about the value of an ever-more-pricey college education, and about high dropout rates and outsized debt loads at for-profit colleges. The Georgetown study makes a compelling case for getting a college diploma.
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