Original Research

Anthony Carnevale Has Two Years to Reemploy 15.8 Million College Grads

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.

Percent BA's in HS & Less Jobs

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)
TOTAL 150,539.9 160,328.8 46,506.9
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.

Which Law Schools Are Shedding Full-Time Faculty? (2015 Edition)

Facing shrinking law-school enrollments, many law schools have responded by reducing their faculties. The phenomenon is worth measuring because faculty reductions aren’t always announced publicly, often appearing in the guises of retirements and quiet buy-outs. Consequently, the ABA’s 509 information reports can shed light on changes in law-school faculties. Here’s the cumulative distribution up until 2015.

No. Law-School Faculty by Type

As with last year, I will estimate the decline in fall full-time law-school faculties among the 202 law schools that aren’t in Puerto Rico. The peak for full timers occurred in 2010 (9,093), but that estimate includes the “other full-time faculty” category (clinicians and legal-writing instructors, if I recall), which the ABA no longer tracks independently. The ABA removed that category last year, so at least the 2015-to-2014 comparison will be consistent.

Fall full-time faculty fell by only 3.1 percent this year (-249). Last year the decline was 7.8 percent (-690), indicating a remarkable improvement. Since 2010, the cumulative decline has been 13.3 percent.

Here is a table of law schools ranked by net change in full-time faculty since 2010 and smallest faculty size in 2010. Trivial annual changes may not represent staff reductions and might be attributable to other factors.

FULL-TIME FACULTY (FALL)
RANK SCHOOL ’10 ’14 ’15 ANNUAL CHANGE NET CHANGE
1. WMU Cooley 101 49 44 -5 -57
2. Penn State (Dickinson Law) 57 47 19 -28 -38
3. George Washington 106 72 70 -2 -36
4. Florida Coastal 69 36 37 1 -32
5. SUNY Buffalo 54 48 24 -24 -30
6. John Marshall (Chicago) 75 56 45 -11 -30
7. Pacific, McGeorge 63 36 34 -2 -29
8. Vermont 55 26 27 1 -28
9. Hofstra 60 42 34 -8 -26
10. Arizona Summit [Phoenix] 32 15 7 -8 -25
11. Hamline 34 14 10 -4 -24
12. Catholic 56 38 32 -6 -24
13. DePaul 56 39 32 -7 -24
14. Syracuse 60 51 37 -14 -23
15. New York Law School 71 57 48 -9 -23
16. Texas 103 80 80 0 -23
17. Seton Hall 59 38 37 -1 -22
18. California-Berkeley 90 72 68 -4 -22
19. Cleveland State 39 23 19 -4 -20
20. Santa Clara 65 54 45 -9 -20
21. St. Louis 65 46 45 -1 -20
22. Widener 50 32 31 -1 -19
23. Seattle 66 47 47 0 -19
24. Suffolk 80 78 61 -17 -19
25. Western New England 36 22 18 -4 -18
26. Albany 46 26 28 2 -18
27. Villanova 49 29 31 2 -18
28. Rutgers-Camden 54 42 36 -6 -18
29. Detroit Mercy 42 23 25 2 -17
30. Golden Gate 42 25 25 0 -17
31. Pace 47 34 30 -4 -17
32. Boston University 67 48 50 2 -17
33. Fordham 81 65 65 0 -16
34. Regent 25 14 10 -4 -15
35. Charleston 31 23 16 -7 -15
36. Florida A&M 35 19 20 1 -15
37. Houston 76 70 61 -9 -15
38. New England 40 26 26 0 -14
39. Stetson 59 44 45 1 -14
40. Maryland 63 51 49 -2 -14
41. Roger Williams 27 17 14 -3 -13
42. Atlanta’s John Marshall 35 35 22 -13 -13
43. St. John’s 50 38 37 -1 -13
44. Lewis and Clark 53 47 40 -7 -13
45. Tulane 53 50 40 -10 -13
46. San Diego 66 54 53 -1 -13
47. American 104 90 91 1 -13
48. Quinnipiac 32 19 20 1 -12
49. Oklahoma City 34 24 22 -2 -12
50. William Mitchell 34 26 22 -4 -12
51. Capital 35 17 23 6 -12
52. Marquette 39 34 27 -7 -12
53. Arizona 44 36 32 -4 -12
54. Iowa 46 40 34 -6 -12
55. Nova Southeastern 60 49 48 -1 -12
56. California-Hastings 71 64 59 -5 -12
57. Faulkner 23 15 12 -3 -11
58. Widener (Commonwealth) 25 18 14 -4 -11
59. Dayton 27 18 16 -2 -11
60. Akron 33 30 22 -8 -11
61. Louisiana State 41 35 30 -5 -11
62. North Carolina Central 42 37 31 -6 -11
63. Touro 42 29 31 2 -11
64. Chapman 51 41 40 -1 -11
65. Georgia 51 48 40 -8 -11
66. Ohio Northern 22 13 12 -1 -10
67. Southern University 35 20 25 5 -10
68. California Western 45 37 35 -2 -10
69. Wake Forest 48 36 38 2 -10
70. Wisconsin 65 62 55 -7 -10
71. Miami 82 77 72 -5 -10
72. Appalachian 16 8 7 -1 -9
73. La Verne 19 8 10 2 -9
74. Arkansas (Little Rock) 30 23 21 -2 -9
75. Washington and Lee 35 36 26 -10 -9
76. Southern Methodist 46 31 37 6 -9
77. Loyola (IL) 60 56 51 -5 -9
78. Loyola (CA) 66 58 57 -1 -9
79. Gonzaga 29 21 21 0 -8
80. Florida State 47 40 39 -1 -8
81. Loyola (LA) 50 46 42 -4 -8
82. Connecticut 52 46 44 -2 -8
83. Brooklyn 68 59 60 1 -8
84. St. Mary’s 36 32 29 -3 -7
85. Indiana (Indianapolis) 41 39 34 -5 -7
86. Thomas Jefferson 42 33 35 2 -7
87. Alabama 47 40 40 0 -7
88. Indiana (Bloomington) 59 55 52 -3 -7
89. Montana 19 12 13 1 -6
90. Campbell 23 22 17 -5 -6
91. Ave Maria 26 20 20 0 -6
92. Toledo 26 25 20 -5 -6
93. Tulsa 28 24 22 -2 -6
94. Mississippi 31 30 25 -5 -6
95. Oregon 35 27 29 2 -6
96. Case Western Reserve 47 33 41 8 -6
97. Illinois 49 44 43 -1 -6
98. Louisville 26 24 21 -3 -5
99. Southern Illinois 27 24 22 -2 -5
100. St. Thomas (MN) 29 23 24 1 -5
101. New Hampshire 33 27 28 1 -5
102. Hawaii 35 25 30 5 -5
103. Kansas 35 33 30 -3 -5
104. Texas Tech 35 37 30 -7 -5
105. Valparaiso 35 31 30 -1 -5
106. Washington University 68 62 63 1 -5
107. Yale 76 75 71 -4 -5
108. Northern Kentucky 28 23 24 1 -4
109. Washburn 31 28 27 -1 -4
110. San Francisco 37 31 33 2 -4
111. George Mason 38 31 34 3 -4
112. Southern California 43 42 39 -3 -4
113. Pittsburgh 47 37 43 6 -4
114. Arizona State 53 51 49 -2 -4
115. Chicago 71 67 67 0 -4
116. South Dakota 14 13 11 -2 -3
117. District of Columbia 21 20 18 -2 -3
118. Florida International 32 35 29 -6 -3
119. Oklahoma 34 39 31 -8 -3
120. Rutgers-Newark 40 37 37 0 -3
121. South Texas 44 47 41 -6 -3
122. Temple 63 58 60 2 -3
123. Samford 23 19 21 2 -2
124. Kentucky 25 24 23 -1 -2
125. Mississippi College 26 23 24 1 -2
126. Baylor 27 23 25 2 -2
127. Drake 28 25 26 1 -2
128. Willamette 28 27 26 -1 -2
129. Cincinnati 29 29 27 -2 -2
130. Tennessee 30 27 28 1 -2
131. Michigan State 52 58 50 -8 -2
132. Michigan 92 82 90 8 -2
133. Howard 26 19 25 6 -1
134. Mercer 27 27 26 -1 -1
135. Texas Southern 30 27 29 2 -1
136. Missouri (Kansas City) 34 30 33 3 -1
137. Richmond 36 35 35 0 -1
138. Boston College 51 54 50 -4 -1
139. Southwestern 57 57 56 -1 -1
140. Minnesota 58 55 57 2 -1
141. Chicago-Kent, IIT 66 64 65 1 -1
142. Georgetown 129 124 128 4 -1
143. Duquesne 26 25 26 1 0
144. Drexel 27 27 27 0 0
145. Arkansas (Fayetteville) 29 26 29 3 0
146. Texas A&M [Wesleyan] 30 26 30 4 0
147. Whittier 31 21 31 10 0
148. Pepperdine 35 39 35 -4 0
149. South Carolina 36 38 36 -2 0
150. California-Davis 43 46 43 -3 0
151. Baltimore 58 59 58 -1 0
152. Pennsylvania 75 71 75 4 0
153. California-Los Angeles 86 98 86 -12 0
154. Western State 16 20 17 -3 1
155. Liberty 19 22 20 -2 1
156. Wyoming 21 21 22 1 1
157. Nebraska 26 29 27 -2 1
158. Nevada 26 28 27 -1 1
159. New Mexico 28 33 29 -4 1
160. Barry 33 35 34 -1 1
161. West Virginia 33 38 34 -4 1
162. Utah 34 33 35 2 1
163. City University 36 37 37 0 1
164. Wayne State 38 33 39 6 1
165. Notre Dame 46 44 47 3 1
166. Virginia 79 77 80 3 1
167. Northern Illinois 19 19 21 2 2
168. Elon 20 20 22 2 2
169. Creighton 23 24 25 1 2
170. Missouri (Columbia) 28 31 30 -1 2
171. St. Thomas (FL) 28 32 30 -2 2
172. Vanderbilt 36 34 38 4 2
173. Georgia State 57 55 59 4 2
174. New York University 151 154 153 -1 2
175. North Dakota 12 14 15 1 3
176. Maine 16 13 19 6 3
177. Memphis 18 22 22 0 4
178. Idaho 21 25 25 0 4
179. Ohio State 42 52 46 -6 4
180. Northeastern 36 40 41 1 5
181. William and Mary 39 49 44 -5 5
182. Colorado 43 50 48 -2 5
183. Northwestern 99 103 104 1 5
184. Duke 70 74 76 2 6
185. North Carolina 42 52 49 -3 7
186. Denver 62 73 69 -4 7
187. Brigham Young 19 26 27 1 8
188. Cardozo, Yeshiva 61 61 69 8 8
189. Lincoln Memorial 8 9 1 9
190. Emory 58 61 68 7 10
191. Concordia 10 10 10
192. Washington 54 59 65 6 11
193. Cornell 51 47 63 16 12
194. Florida 56 59 68 9 12
195. Charlotte 35 64 48 -16 13
196. Harvard 141 139 154 15 13
197. Belmont 14 13 -1 13
198. Massachusetts — Dartmouth 17 15 -2 15
199. Stanford 68 90 91 1 23
200. California-Irvine 32 35 3 35
201. Penn State (Penn State Law) 35 35 35
202. Columbia 107 167 161 -6 54
10TH PERCENTILE 23 19 17 -7 -20
25TH PERCENTILE 30 25 24 -4 -12
MEDIAN 42 35 34 -1 -5
75TH PERCENTILE 58 51 48 1 0
90TH PERCENTILE 75 67 68 4 5
MEAN 46.4 40.7 39.0 -1.2 -6.0
GROSS GAIN (^_^) 279 368
GROSS LOSS -528 -1,574
CUMULATIVE 9,093 8,136 7,887 -249 -1,206

Editorial observations:

  • Our No. 1, WMU Cooley, shouldn’t surprise anyone. The next two not so much.
  • As of 2015, Penn State is now two law schools, which is why the new “Penn State Law” campus gained 35 faculty this year from nil. Arguably, Penn State (Dickinson) “shed” these instructors in some sense—just to a different school. Regardless, I don’t think it’s problematic.
  • No. 3, George Washington, raised a stir last year because, as some commenters insisted, the law school reclassified a number of full-time faculty to a designation none could identify. It’s possible that the elimination of the “other full-time faculty” category last year somehow disserved GWU, but I don’t really see why because similar problems didn’t plague other law schools at the time. As it is, until someone can identify which bucket GWU put those 20 or so persons, I consider them “shed.”
  • William Mitchell and Hamline are still separate law schools at this point in 509-land. Mitchell | Hamline does not have a report of its own (a decision I agree with).
  • I’m a bit surprised that Whittier added 10 full-time faculty and that UCLA lost 12.
  • Suffolk lost 17 full-time faculty, and SUNY Buffalo cut its full timers in half (-24). These are plausible if high numbers.
  • Arizona Summit, Appalachian, and Lincoln Memorial have fewer than 10 full-time fall faculty. The latter two aren’t news, but Arizona Summit is the standout because these 7 souls are responsible for 587 students. Arizona Summit reported 0 part-time faculty this year, which is a misreporting (unless its Web site is lying or grossly out of date).
  • La Verne bounced back from 8 full-time faculty last year.
  • Did Harvard really add 15 people? It wouldn’t surprise me, but still.

I believe this is the last topic I regularly cover based on the annual release of the 509 information reports. You can read my past posts for the 2015-16 academic year here:

 

Full-Time Students Paying Full Tuition Fell ~5 Percentage Points in 2014

Once upon a time, more than half of law students at the typical law school paid full tuition.

But that fairy tale is now over. Behold:

Percent Full-Time Law Students Paying Full Tuition

I’m astonished. Now, only about a third of law students at the average law school pay full tuition. These schools must be hemorrhaging money given how much they’re fighting over applicants.

At the average private law school in 2014, there were more students who received less-than-half tuition grants than there were students given a full bill. It appears that in a couple years, even the half-to-full-tuition crowd will outnumber the full freighters—and this is last year’s data!

No. Full-Time Private Law School Students Per School by Grant Received

Speaking of hemorrhaging money, in 2014, full-time law students paying full tuition only contributed $1 billion to private law schools. This year, it’s probably less.

Aggregate Revenue From Full-Time Private Law School Students Paying Full-Tuition

Finally, here’s what tuition discounted by the median grant looks like at private law schools by the mean of their full tuition quintiles. The idea here is to set full tuition as the independent variable and let the discounted tuition float.

Full-Time Private Law School Tuition and Median Discounted Tuition by Tuition Quintile Mean

Percent Private Law School Students Receiving Median Grant by Full Tuition Quintile Mean

Last year, the mean discounted tuition among law schools in the second full-tuition quintile was lower than the third’s, meaning second-quintile schools are discounting much more than schools that nominally charge less. I think it’s trivial, but it indicates pricing competition.

That’s all for now.

Full-Time Law School Tuition Still (Slowly) Rising

…But it’s certainly debatable how much students are actually paying.

Here’s the dispersion of stated law-school tuition for full-time students in constant dollars as of the end of second quarter 2015. (I’m not hugely into non-resident tuition.)

Full-Time Law School Tuition Dispersion (Excl. P.R., Constant $)

The law school at the median charged about $1,300 more than last year. Inflation has been so low that real tuition fell last year, but that’s been reversed.

There has been talk recently (I forget when specifically, and I’m too lazy to look it up right now) of law schools cutting their nominal tuition, but from the above chart it’s obvious that these are isolated cases that have not influenced any trends. In fact, I did a quick check and none of the private law schools that cut their tuition in the last two years (La Verne, Brooklyn, Elon, Ohio Northern, and Roger Williams spring from my spreadsheets) saw any increase in full-time applications. Certainly there’s something to be said about the elasticity of demand for law school, but I’ll consider that later.

Still, full-time private law schools’ tuition increases are slowing, but this year they hiccuped upward.

Dispersal of FT Private LS Tuition Price Increases (Current $, excl. PR, Zoomed In)

In each of the last three years, at least 10 percent of tuition increases among private law schools was 0 percent or less. I don’t think this year’s hiccup means anything.

Finally, here’s nominal tuition increases by tuition quintile mean.

Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Increases by Tuition Quintile Mean (Current $)

As with last year, the weight of tuition increases is still on the costlier end of law schools. Surprisingly, Columbia remains the only law school that charges more than $60,000 per year. (Cornell was 19 bucks short. *clap* … *clap*)

In closing, I want to extend my thanks to the law schools for not omitting tuition information from their 509 reports. Some didn’t last year, which is bizarre to me.

Full-Time Law-School Application Inequality Unchanged in 2015

Last year, I modified the Lorenz curve to measure the distribution of full-time law-school applications. A Lorenz curve measures the cumulative distribution of a quantity in order from the smallest recipient to the largest. Usually it’s the distribution of income among households. I’ve modified the Lorenz curve according to the U.S. News and World Report rankings for the previous year because the rankings are an independent measurement of law-school eliteness as seen by LSAT takers and applicants at the time that they apply.

The Lorenz curve can also be used to calculate the Gini coefficient, which is the area under the Lorenz curve divided by the total area of the right triangle representing a totally equal distribution of the quantity among the recipients.

I found last year that full-time application inequality had risen noticeably between 2009 and 2014. The Gini coefficient had shifted from 0.37 to 0.42, and the top 50 law schools captured half of all full-time applications—up about 5 percentage points from 2009. Finally, freestanding private law schools, and even among them for-profit law schools, lost only a small share of applications.

Repeating the analysis for 2015, the application distribution appears essentially unchanged.

Full-Time Law-School Applications (Adjusted) Lorenz Curve

If you can’t distinguish the 2015 Lorenz curve from the 2014 curve, that’s a feature, not a bug. The Gini coefficient rose from 0.427 to 0.429. Additionally, any shift in applications in favor of lower-ranked law schools, namely the 51-100s, is due in part to volatility and ties within the rankings. In fact, holding the rankings constant, law schools ranked 51-100 in 2014 saw only a 1 percent gain in application share in 2015, but the top 50 were largely unchanged.

I predicted interest in law school to become more unequal this year, but surprisingly it didn’t. Instead, there was a trivial shift in applications toward lower-ranked schools. Consequently, although the number of full-time applications fell 4.2 percent in 2015, the overall impact was felt proportionately among law schools. Notably, U.S. News‘ static top-14 law schools accounted for 40 percent of the total decline in full-time applications—in contrast to its ten percent gain against the application decline last year.

I interpret all this as mildly good news for law schools: Interest in legal education still fell, but the perception that non-elite law schools offer little to applicants appears to have softened. However, that might be little comfort to law schools whose budgets are deep in the red.

Law School Matriculant Crunch Coming to an End

That’s the most reasonable analysis one can make of the ABA’s Standard 509 Information Reports, which appeared on the Internet on December 15th.

Before the fun a few preliminaries:

  • Blessedly, the ABA chose to release all the data in spreadsheet form at once, making my life much easier. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
  • However, its GPA and LSAT scores spreadsheet omits a few law schools, includes others it shouldn’t, and throws some curve balls.
  • Excluded: Concordia, Lincoln Memorial, Penn State (Dickinson), Penn State (State College). (Note, as of this fall, the Penn States are two separate law schools, but as far as I’m concerned, its State College school was founded and accredited this year.)
  • Included: University of Dallas (not accredited yet)
  • Curve-balled: Rutgers (as one law school, along with entries for Camden and Newark), Atlanta’s John Marshall (Savannah) (subset of its parent), Cooley-Michigan (subset of all Cooley campuses), and William Mitchell and Hamline are still separate law schools, which might surprise people.

I haven’t parsed all the spreadsheets, but some contain similar bizarreness. Hopefully, no one who has reported on the data already has committed any errors as a result.

So…

In the 2015-16 academic year, there were 32,595 full-time matriculants to 205 ABA-accredited law schools, down 850 matriculants from 2014-15. That year saw a 1,228-matriculant decline, so the crunch is slowing down for the law schools. (These figures exclude the three law school in Puerto Rico, as I usually do.)

Full-time applicant acceptance rates are largely flat, except at the 90th percentile.

Dispersion of Full-Time Law School Applicant Acceptance Rates

Matriculant yields are up slightly as well (omitted), but ultimately about 26 law schools account for half of the decline in matriculants since the last trough year, 2007, which I believe is a better comparison year than 2010, which was a peak year.

Meanwhile, application growth rates are still accelerating.

Dispersion of Full-Time Law School Application Growth Rates

Nearly a quarter of law schools saw a growth in applications. First place goes to Lincoln Memorial (124.1 percent), rising like an undead menace despite the ABA’s initial denials of accreditation. Number two, which I think is fair to report given that Lincoln Memorial was only recently accredited, is Denver at 56.7 percent. I’m not quite sure how it pulled that off.

Last year, I discussed at length how U.S. News‘ top-twentyish law schools saw an unusual bounce in applications. Curiously, that phenomenon has been blunted. Last year the top fourteen received 72,769 applications, but this year they hauled in 66,982—the lowest since 2000, which was back when paper applications were all the rage. I hypothesized that would-be applicants believed that no one was applying to elite law schools, so their applications would succeed. Maybe that was right, maybe not, but regardless, I’m stumped as to why the application decline resumed for these schools.

Consequently, I haven’t seen any real surprises from the application data yet, but there’s more stuff to comb through, so stay tuned.

BLS Projects Only 43,800 New Lawyer Jobs by 2024

On Tuesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its employment projections for the next cycle: 2014-2024.

In 2014, the BLS estimated that there were 778,700 lawyer positions (as opposed to discrete lawyers) in the United States. This figure includes self-employed lawyers. In 2012, the Employment Projections Program found 759,800 lawyer positions, so there has been some growth. According to the Current Population Survey, in 2014, 1.132 million people worked as lawyers in the United States. The discrepancy between the CPS and the EPP has existed for some time. In their respective contexts, both figures are correct.

The BLS projects future employment trends in part to help job seekers evaluate career choices, and the projections play a significant role in the BLS’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. Here is an illustration, from various sources, of law-school graduate and lawyer growth since the 1980s.

Lawyer & Graduate Estimates (1983-2024)

Between 2014 and 2024, the BLS estimates a total 157,700 net lawyer jobs will be created. Of those, only 43,800 can be attributed to economic growth over the decade. The rest, 113,900, consist of net occupational replacements. Last year, I wrote about how the BLS plans to revise its replacement methodology, switching from a net replacement measurement to a gross one. When applied to lawyers, it appeared more jobs would be created annually than under the current methodology. The BLS has not yet adopted the new methodology.

Unfortunately—and despite my warnings—some law professors concluded that a higher replacement rate meant better job prospects for law school graduates. However, this position fails to account for turnover—the rate at which lawyers leave the law for different occupations or leave the labor force entirely. In fact, in a prototype analysis of the new methodology, the BLS estimated that over ten years one lawyer in four would move to a different occupation. By comparison, the rate for physicians was only 15 percent. It is unlikely that every lawyer moving to a different occupation will find work in a field that requires the skills and knowledge obtained in law school or pays accordingly.

The BLS typically divides the ten-year employment projection by ten, suggesting that only 15,770 lawyer positions will be created each year until 2024. Despite falling law-school enrollments, but with the number of applicants possibly rising, it does not appear that the economy will be able to absorb all new lawyers completing law school. Indeed, in 2014, 43,800 people graduated from ABA law schools, but it’s likely that fewer than 40,000 graduated in 2015. The number of people admitted to the bar by admission and diploma privilege—a measure of new lawyer growth—was 54,820 in 2014, but this includes many duplicates.

The number of law school graduates and new bar admits far exceed the projected lawyer job growth rate. Consequently, it appears that although interest in law school has waned, far more people are attending law school than the profession can employ.

My opinions of J.D. advantage jobs can be found here.

My comprehensive explanation of the various measures of law-school grads and lawyers can be found on this page. It also should contain any links I may have omitted in this post.