Friday, January 20, 2012

Degrees and Unemployment

A recent article in Fiscal Times reported that recent college graduates with degrees in architecture had the highest unemployment rate, a fact that the periodical attributed to the housing crash.  I did my own calculations on unemployment rates among college graduates under 30, which is not exactly the same as recent graduates. I also used the individual-level census data from 2009. I came up with a lower rate than the study cited in the Fiscal Times (mine was 11.8%, rather than 13.9%), but this could be because the data were a couple of years old and because I was looking at all young graduates rather than recent graduates. But it supports the contention that architecture is a high unemployment degree.  I wonder, though, if this is a temporary phenomenon, since architects do have a definite occupational skill that could be in demand again in the future. In my calculations, though, the highest unemployment rate was for people with degrees in languages other than what the census classified as common languages, such as French and German (13.8%). School student counseling, which I had thought would have a low rate, came in at 13.6%. Interdisciplinary social science graduates were also pretty likely to be out of work (13.3%). By contrast, English language & literature, liberal arts and history don't look too bad (7.2%, 7.2% and 8.4%, respectively). My discipline, sociology, looks almost like an economic boom field, with a young unemployment rate of only 6.1%.

Of course, we don't know exactly what all of these folks are doing. It might be easier for English majors than architects to get jobs slinging hamburgers, or they might be more willing to take those Among the lowest earners were people with degrees in early childhood education, who had an unemployment rate of only 4.0%. This makes me think that there may be a tradeoff. Sometimes training for a potentially high paying, high prestige job may actually put you in a market in there is more supply than demand, while training in the low-paying field may give you a better bet for employment. Given the point that I have previously made about the continuing demand for workers at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, perhaps part of our problem with unemployment lies in excessively high expectations for widespread upward mobility,

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