Many College Graduates Have Always Been ‘Malemployed’

It never seems to occur to our betters that the inability of humanities graduates to find jobs has a lot to do with the basic problem that there aren’t any fucking jobs (go figure). Furthermore, most humanities majors never went on to ‘use’ their degrees: they didn’t enter a related PhD or other post-graduate degree program, teach history, or work in an archive or museum.

Well, now WE HAZ DATAZ! During the last decade, rate of malemployment, defined as “a college graduate not being employed in an occupation ‘which utilize[s] the skills and knowledge that are commonly thought to be acquired through a college education'” has always been high, even when strict (‘U3’) unemployment was much lower:

Fogg and Harrington’s Table 1 shows a mal-employment rate for college graduates under 25 of 34% in 2000, 34% in 2007 and 39% in 2010. Unemployment was only 4.5% in 2007, so the increase in mal-employment from 2000 to 2010 is not simply a consequence of the current recession.

That’s not to say there’s no role for the recession:

Obviously an increase from 41% to 54% of recent college graduates being unemployed or underemployed is hardly trivial, but only Weissmann seems to have provided the comparison which shows that even in boom times, 40% of recent college graduates have troubles in the job market. Note that the 2000 figure is from before the recession, when the overall unemployment rate was about 4%. Since the unemployment rate if 2011 was about 9%, 40% of the increase in the job market problems of recent college graduates is due to the overall bad state of the economy and has nothing to do with college or choice of major.

The recession isn’t helping, but college for many has been for a long time a gateway to serving lattes (not that there’s anything wrong with that–all labor has worth). And most majors aren’t great at placing their graduates:


College was never a great job placement strategy. That is not the tragedy. The tragedy is how many recent graduates are in hock up to their eyeballs paying for college. We can do something about that. If the powers that be actually gave a shit. Guess what? They don’t.

This entry was posted in Education, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Many College Graduates Have Always Been ‘Malemployed’

  1. Leo says:

    I read Fogg and Harrington’s paper and I was rather taken aback that after such a clear presentation of the data that they then recommend… wait for it… better career counseling — for jobs that don’t exist, or are in short supply, and are projected to be in short supply by the BLS for the next decade.

    For those students who want guidance, institutions of higher learning need to help guide these young people in making appropriate decisions through more effective and longer-term career counseling that links the curricular and extracurricular choices of students to their career goals. Cooperative education, internships, and similar work experience programs connected to employment in CLM occupations are increasingly important for success in this difficult labor-market environment.

    I wish we had more data going back further in time. I’m wondering if the high levels of malemployment we’ve seen over the past decade are related to credentialization (employers wanting a master’s degree when previously a bachelor’s sufficed).

  2. Misaki says:

    I think I remember reading about the roughly 40% => 50% increase in under/unemployment before… the breakdown of mal-employment is interesting though.

    Compare with tertiary education attainment in other countries:

    (Maybe more complete data but I find it’s convenient to link to.)

    Can somewhat think of education as serving a role of “employing professors and keeping people out of the work force”. In this sense, high tuition is not necessarily bad because it allows a reversal of the assumption that everyone needs to go to college. (Example: , or the “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower” essay/book)

  3. sciliz says:

    I think it’s especially important to get it to permeate the public consciousness that science, communications and business are *unemployable majors that rival philosophy*.
    Also, they should probably desegregate out things further. I suspect “accounting” does fine, whereas “mathematics” is not really up there with “computer science”. But what do I know? I thought they needed microbiologists…
    (technically, they do need microbiologists. They just don’t want to pay for them. Which is why we can’t have nice foods/medicines)

Comments are closed.