Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fate of Non-College High School Grads

There is a heartbreaking report out this morning from some social scientists at Rutgers university that presents results from a survey of recent US high-school grads who have not gone to college.

The above graph summarizes the main point - for the population that graduated post-recession (the right column), only a little over 20% are being paid for something full time (either employment, self-employment, or in the military - the green bars).  Another slightly over 20% are working part-time (blue bars), and the rest are not doing any paid work (red/pink bars).  For the immediate pre-recession population, things are better, though hardly good.

Of those who do have jobs, very few feel that they are on any kind of a path to a good future:

And, by and large, these jobs suck - only a small minority are very satisfied and a majority are not even somewhat satisfied with any aspect of their jobs:

In terms of why these individuals didn't go onto college; in most cases, they had hoped to:

but economics didn't permit:

The sheer waste of human potential here is staggering.


KLR said...

Possible typo: "In terms of why these individuals didn't go onto college, in most cases they had hoped too:"

Fig 3 adds to the sobering impact of it all; 50% were working because "I just needed a job/Only job available."

Some historical perspective is needed, of course. Do things always suck post-recession; would you have seen similar figures in 1983 or 2002?

Anonymous said...

Well, the waste of human talent has been staggering and it's getting worse.

When I visit my family in Cleveland I am starkly reminded at just how different (in a bad way) some parts of this country are as opposed to other parts.

Case in point is my Generation Y sister who works full time retail job now which is slowly killing her spirit. But it doesn't pay enough for her to set out on her own, let alone significantly pay down her student debt (for a diploma without which she would be 'unqualified' for her retail position) and so she resigns herself to a life of quiet desperation.

Hell, even in Maryland they opened up a new casino today and I wasn't too shocked to find out THERE ARE NO DEALERS AT THE TABLE GAMES. Instead, they feature single-serving 'virtual' table games, sort of like slot machines. All automated. How much longer until all table game dealers are replaced with machines? These unfortunately are all apt questions for new grads to ponder.


sunbeam said...

I don't know what the answer to this is.

I want to ask you something though.

What exactly can these people do?

It's a head scratcher to me because I can't think of anything that will come along to produce a large upswing in employement.

Whereas I can think of lots of ways I think automation and robotics will put them out of the kinds of jobs they have even now.

I don't know whether it's cynical, or disparaging, but the kinds of kids you are talking about as a rule aren't capable of graduating from Stanford with a degree in Computer Science or pre-med.

A few of these kids might have the native ability to do well at Stanford (or somewhere else) if they had the opportunity. But even with native ability, if you have the wrong kind of background it's easy not to finish if you have poor study habits, or any of a number of other traits that can lead to you not fitting into an academic environment.

Even at that, are we short of Computer Science (or most technical fields) grads really?

Besides medical care (which I think could see a lot of automation as well), what field has been a growth area in employment the past few decades? Prisons and debt collection maybe, but it is a short list.

So where does that leave everyone?

By the way, I think China might have far more of a problem with this than we will. Plus a whole slew of countries around the world

Anonymous said...

The answer is really very, very simple. The government borrows money for ten years at 1.6% interest, and then hires all of these kids to do big and important things that benefit our economy in the long run: retrofitting houses, fixing schools, painting murals, fixing up national parks, DOING SOMETHING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE, all those kinds of things.
But there is a significant faction in American politics which believes that it is better to waste these lives, and this opportunity, than to improve our country before the next election.

Nick G said...


I agree, except it probably would be better to raise half of those funds by taxation.

Yes, that might reduce aggregate demand a bit, but then we wouldn't be making false promises to future generations about the return on that borrowing.

That's what the US did in WWII - it's much more sensible to tax the rich than to borrow from them and have to pay them a revenue stream forever. The rich disagree, of course, which is the problem.