Monday, November 21, 2011

More four year degrees won't solve the current problem

David Brooks and Thomas Friedman have recently taken to arguing that the solution to our income distribution woes is to encourage and enable more people to go to college.  I want to leave aside for a second the fact that our educational problems are much deeper than that--that our high school graduation rate is declining is to me the most alarming education statistic.

Rather, it is worth looking at what has happened to earnings by educational attainment over the past eight years.  The census has put out data for 2002-2010, and here is what it (Table A-6) shows:

Median earnings for men with a high school degree fell 12.1 percent between 2002-2010; earnings for women with a high school diploma fell 8.5 percent between 2002-2010; for men with college degrees, it was a fall of 8.0 percent; for women with college degrees it was flat.  So yes, education is increasing income inequality in that those with college degrees are losing less than those with high school diplomas.

I am the sort of person who would be fine with a GINI of .5 (a number the reflects lots of inequality) if it meant that the people who are materially worst off can live at a decent standard of living.  But currently, those who play by the rules (and I mean really play by the rules) are seeing their living standards erode.  Homilies about sending more people to college are at the moment pretty much beside the point.


stock said...

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james said...

Interesting post about the difference between what collage grades make compared to non collage grades. But thats not the worst of it. I would be willing to guess that a man with a better job and higher education would tend to have more confidence than a man with not so good a job. I also believe that the man with a better job and more education would be in better health than the man without a job or if he has a job that is low wage or unskilled. I also would like to say not as a snub to those men with better jobs and better education. Many of the jobs their in contribute little or nothing to building an economy. Examples lawyers' accountants marketing consultants' insurance actuaries' financial planners' Just to name a few theirs no multiplier effect here. What I mean by this is take 2000 employes in a very large office building theirs some computers some computer servers office furniture one heating and air condition system lots of software programs to determine risk factors and so forth maybe some paper products. Now take the same number of retail store employees in 100 different stores all over the country every time a store is constructed it creates jobs all over the place. Just thnk of the amount of stuff that must be bought everything from glass to plumbing and everything in between. Every building has a roof that needs taring from time to time' a heating and air condition system that need maintenance. A parking lot that needs to be dug out every ten fifteen years or so and tared every year. All the stores need remodeling every 7 to 10 years shelving needs replacing trailers that haul goods wear out and must be replaced. Trucks that deliver goods need regular maintenance. Signage needs to be updated all over the store regularly. Shopping carts need replacing. Most of the stuff excluding the goods on the shelves is made in the united states. In other words the employees in the office building have 100 square feet per person. The retail store employees have 1000 square feet per employee. In other words the multiplier effect is at least ten times what it is for the insurance company employees. I am not basing all of this on square footage. I could go on and on. The fact of the matter is unfortunately for many of your highly educated men with good jobs these jobs contibute little if anything at all to economic growth and in some cases an example lawyers take away from economic growth.

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