Two years ago I made fun of President Obama’s ludicrous claim that “more than 60 percent of jobs in the next decade will require more than a high school diploma.” It appeared Obama appropriated the statistic from Anthony P. Carnevale’s paper for the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce (GCEW), entitled, “Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018.” It shrieks on page 22 that 63 percent of jobs created by 2018 would require a college education: 33 percent bachelor’s degrees, and 30 percent associate’s degrees or just some college.
As I wrote in January 2014, Carnevale and his colleagues reasoned that the BLS was holding occupational credential requirements constant when they should drift with times. As non-college jobs go increasingly to college-educated workers, we should consider those jobs as requiring college education.
If you’re scratching your head wondering if Carnevale is rationalizing credential inflation, then you have no hope of employment in a D.C. think tank. (Maybe you didn’t go to college?) In the fourth appendix, the authors merely counter-argue, “BLS’ educational and training requirement data undercount postsecondary degrees by 22 million in 2008. This implies that 22 million workers are overeducated. The overwhelming consensus in the literature contradicts this.”
Thanks to the most recent publication of the BLS’s employment projections (tables 1.7 and 1.11), I get 15.8 million people with a bachelor’s degree or higher in jobs requiring a high-school education or less. On the bright side, that’s down 100,000 jobs from two years ago. That backlog won’t clear until the mid-22nd century.
It’s true that occupations can change and benefit from productivity advances, and many occupations do not require a single credential to enter them. However, the question GCEW should be asking is what jobs overqualified workers are taking. The answer isn’t too compelling.
These twenty occupations account for half of the 12.9 million bachelor’s-degree holders working in high school or less jobs. These occupations dominate among master’s-degree and doctorate holders as well. Maybe some of these folks over 25 are in these jobs temporarily (they’d have to be for many), but at that age it’s pretty implausible that they’re on track for college-premium-magic careers.
Overall, 19.3 million college-and-higher people are qualified or underqualified for their work, and 27.4 million workers are at least somewhat overqualified, which includes PhDs working in bachelor’s jobs.
In contrast to the GCEW’s forecast, the BLS essentially says that 27.7 percent of the jobs to be created by growth and replacement over the next decade will require an associate’s degree or higher. (BA’s are at 20.5 percent.) High-school and less will account for 64.2 percent. Of the 46.5 million jobs that will be created, here’s a table of the top twenty, accounting for 16 million jobs.
|OCCUPATION||EDUCATION REQUIRED||NO. EMPLOYED (2014) (1,000s)||NO. EMPLOYED (2024) (1,000s)||NEW JOBS (GROWTH + REPLACEMENT) (1,000s)|
|Retail salespersons||No formal educational credential||4,624.9||4,939.1||1,917.2|
|Cashiers||No formal educational credential||3,424.2||3,491.1||1,523.8|
|Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food||No formal educational credential||3,159.7||3,503.2||1,364.6|
|Waiters and waitresses||No formal educational credential||2,465.1||2,534.0||1,255.0|
|Registered nurses||Bachelor’s degree||2,751.0||3,190.3||1,088.4|
|Customer service representatives||High school diploma or equivalent||2,581.8||2,834.8||888.7|
|Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand||No formal educational credential||2,441.3||2,566.4||851.7|
|Office clerks, general||High school diploma or equivalent||3,062.5||3,158.2||756.2|
|Stock clerks and order fillers||No formal educational credential||1,878.1||1,971.1||689.0|
|General and operations managers||Bachelor’s degree||2,124.1||2,275.2||688.8|
|Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners||No formal educational credential||2,360.6||2,496.9||605.2|
|Personal care aides||No formal educational credential||1,768.4||2,226.5||601.1|
|Nursing assistants||Postsecondary nondegree award||1,492.1||1,754.1||599.0|
|Home health aides||No formal educational credential||913.5||1,261.9||554.8|
|Accountants and auditors||Bachelor’s degree||1,332.7||1,475.1||498.0|
|Maids and housekeeping cleaners||No formal educational credential||1,457.7||1,569.4||459.4|
|Cooks, restaurant||No formal educational credential||1,109.7||1,268.7||452.5|
|Maintenance and repair workers, general||High school diploma or equivalent||1,374.7||1,458.1||443.7|
|Childcare workers||High school diploma or equivalent||1,260.6||1,329.9||441.3|
|First-line supervisors of retail sales workers||High school diploma or equivalent||1,537.8||1,605.4||411.3|
Most of these jobs don’t look like they benefit from more education, but hey, maybe Carnevale will reemploy all 15.8 million college grads into jobs that fully utilize their credentials. He only has two years to make it happen.