“Go to college so you can get a better job.” We have been hearing this for years. Ever since the United States has shifted away from a manufacturing-based economy, students have been pushed towards higher education under the assumption that a college degree would improve their economic outlook. This assumption is of course mostly true as college grads do earn more on average than their non-college educated peers. However, new research has shown that in some areas, the number of college degree requiring jobs doesn’t actually match the number of people holding college degrees.
The Urban Institute, a Washington D.C. based think tank that specializes in economic and social policy research, has found that job seekers with a college education may not gain employment in a job that actually matches the level of education they received:
This brief describes patterns in postsecondary educational attainment and entry-level educational requirements for local jobs in all 387 metropolitan areas. We found that, in most communities, there is an imbalance where the share of people with postsecondary qualifications generally surpasses the share of jobs that require that level of educational attainment. The descriptive analysis prompts important questions about our approaches to postsecondary education and training, employers’ role in addressing labor force challenges, and implications for economic development policy.
The team found that this phenomenon was especially true in some metropolitan areas. Meaning that some of the mismatch problems could be mitigated by job seekers willing to relocate to other areas where their skills and educational attainment are in greater demand. Though those kinds of geographic moves are now at a “historic low”.
This research has seemingly found the underlying cause of rising underemployment, which refers to highly skilled or educated individuals working in jobs that are below their qualifications due to job-market forces. While unemployment has returned to pre-recession levels, underemployment has not.
The Urban Institute suggests that communities should do a better job of taking stock of the degrees and credentials their population has when planning their economic strategy. Additionally, economic policies should also “support workers’ geographic mobility.”
Read the full report here.