The education and employment myth: Almost two-thirds of people in the labor force do not have a college degree.

There is an ongoing perception that most of the workforce has a college degree.  When we say college degree we mean at a minimum a bachelor’s degree.  You would think that with $1.3 trillion in student debt outstanding a good portion of the work force would be college educated.  The opposite is the truth however.  Almost two-thirds of the workforce does not have a college degree.  That might be surprising to you especially for a country that pushes nearly everyone into college.  Yet this blind pushing of people into college has created problems for those choosing careers and paths that simply lead into more debt and very little marketable skills.  It is also a case where the younger workforce is more educated but also more indebted.  They are paying more for their education and their incomes are simply showing paltry gains.  This is why talks of the minimum wage are actually bigger than you think.  Many people are what we would consider “working poor” even though the media fails to acknowledge real inflation that is hurting the standard of living.  So how does this look on a nationwide scale?

No college for workers

I think the figures are rather surprising for many here:

“(EPI) Almost two-thirds of people in the labor force (65.1 percent) do not have a college degree. In fact, people without a college degree (which includes those without a high school degree, with a high school degree, some college education, and an associates’ degrees) make up the majority of the labor force in every state but the District of Columbia. Mississippi has the highest share of non-college educated workers (75.7 percent) while Massachusetts and the District of Columbia have the lowest shares (51 percent and 33.7 percent, respectively).”

Of course the distribution isn’t evenly distributed across the country:

labor force and college degrees

I believe the above is a big reason why so many Americans living in affluent metro areas are completely removed from the economic plight of most Americans.  Some are pushed into states with much lower standards of living and the dialogue is simply nonexistent with wealthier areas.  The media unfortunately caters to the elite markets and simply ignores the large masses of people that are getting by.  We have nearly 94 million adult Americans that are not in the labor force.  Think about that.  Nearly one-third of our adult population isn’t generating income.

And since manufacturing jobs have been destroyed, many are left chasing low paying service sector jobs.  This has been a challenge since the recovery took place.  Many good paying jobs left only to be replaced by lower paying jobs with fewer benefits and lack of progression.  The careers that do have higher income potential all require college degrees: computer science, engineering, biology, chemistry, certain fields of business (accounting, finance, information systems), and medical fields.  Yet most do not pursue these career paths.

It is probably safe to assume that the calls for a hike in the minimum wage are resonating with millions because many people are already there.  Good or bad (probably not good when the middle class is now a minority), there is an army of working poor in the United States.

And to tell two-thirds of the workforce to go back to college just doesn’t seem feasible especially if it means getting into deeper debt without any subsequent wage gains:

“We cannot solve the problem of low and stagnating wages for non-college educated workers by expecting everyone to pursue more education. We need solutions that will raise wages for all workers, regardless of educational attainment. These solutions include raising the minimum wage, strengthening collective bargaining rights, prioritizing very low rates of unemployment through monetary policy, and reducing our trade deficit by stopping destructive currency manipulation.”

This is the argument that is gaining traction.  Of course some view this as welfare but what do we call the corporate welfare to the banks, politicians, and the crony capitalist that drove the economy off the edge in the first place?  So many people are falling further behind and that is why the politics of this year are so extreme.  Again, it might be worth remembering that two-thirds of the labor force doesn’t have a college degree.

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3 Comments on this post


  1. Mark Winkle said:

    In the future you will see a staggering reduction of jobs due to the increasing use of technology. In education, teachers will still be necessary, but technology will continue to have an ever increasing role.
    In manufacturing, the most dangerous jobs will be taken over by technology in the next twenty years. Technology will be used to pave and clear roads of snow, ice, and debris such as fallen rocks.
    In finance you will see pay and prices both go up astronomically.
    You will see the economy of the United States decline drastically if we do not increase the education levels of our youth.
    I advise 35 countries and five major international organizations. We all need to start living within our means and paying down our debts in a timely manner. In the future, the efficient survive, the wasters and posers go by the way side and are lost economically until they change their way of living.

    Keep up helping others.

    Mark Winkle
    Int’l. Consultant

    April 10th, 2016 at 7:28 pm
  2. Tom said:

    Your wage will be determined by what the employer is willing to pay you. How much will you produce and how many other potential employees are willing to work for less?

    The alternative is to be replaced at a McDonald’s by GUI……

    April 11th, 2016 at 2:19 pm
  3. Edie said:

    We need our manufacturing jobs back from China, etc. We need President Donald Trump to make America great again.

    April 28th, 2016 at 5:08 pm


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