America's Waiters and Cashiers Are Over-Educated


More people are going to college than ever before, but those extra years of education aren't translating into the fancy-pants jobs that most people expect after snagging a sheepskin. Sixty percent of the increase in the number of college grads between 1992 and 2008 are doing low-skilled jobs that used to be done by people with high school diplomas or less. Ohio University economist Richard Vedder does the math:

In 1992 the BLS reports that total college graduate employment was 28.9 million, of whom 5.1 million were in occupations which the BLS classified as "noncollege level jobs" while in 2008 the BLS data indicate that total college graduate employment was 49.35 million, with 17.4 million in occupations classified as requiring less than a bachelor's degree.

An example or two from specific occupations is useful. In 1992 119,000 waiters and waitresses were college degree holders. By 2008, this number had more than doubled to 318,000. While the total number of waiters and waitresses grew by about 1 million during this period, 20% of all new jobs in this occupation were filled by college graduates. Take cashiers as well. While 132,000 cashiers possessed college degrees in 1992, by 2008, 365,000 cashiers were college graduates. As with waiters and waitresses, 20% of new cashiers since 1992 are college graduates. (The sources for all of these data are Table 1 of the Summer 1994 Occupational Outlook Quarterly and the Employment Projection Program "Occupations" tables on the BLS Web site)

These numbers are big enough that we're not seeing a clsuter of arty comp lit major-novelist-waiters picking up some cash while living their dream in a garret. The stats show people who probably wouldn't have gone to college in another era, responded to incentives like cheap loans and went to college in the '90s or '00s, graduated at 22- or 23-years-old, and then got the same gigs they would have been qualified for at 18.

For more, watch "The Case Against College Entitlements."

Via Arnold Kling.

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207 responses to “America's Waiters and Cashiers Are Over-Educated

  1. “You are a failure if you don’t have a college degree.” – Baby boomer parents

    1. Not mine. Two of six kids have degrees and one of those is from University of Phoenix.

      My little brother, who is a HS educated skilled machinist, makes the most money.

    2. Hell, that mindset started right after WW2, before the baby boomers were really old enough to have a discernable impact on the national culture. Now it’s just assumed–witness this bit of excrement from the Hispanic Ad Council, which takes a positive action, working towards a degree, and twists it to portary blue collar workers as society’s dregs:


  2. What parents should be doing is pushing their kids into technical and scientific fields. Perhaps if they were exposed to more news about technical and scientific achievements and how they make our lives generally better (and make us wealthier), that would help.

    1. I have a co-worker whose son went into an electrician’s apprenticeship.

      By the second year of his apprenticeship, the son was earning more than his college-degree father with 30 years’ work experience.

      1. Good point. Technical work doesn’t necessarily require a degree.

      2. We’re going to tell our kids that they are only getting help from us for college if they want to become an engineer. Otherwise, we’ll help them go to trade school and become plumbers or electricians. Anything else they want to do, they can pay out of pocket.

        1. I haven’t gone quite that far, but I’ve made it clear what I think of fluff majors. My oldest is going to college next summer–he’s planning to major in mechanical engineering.

          1. What about fluffer majors?

            1. I had to look that up. Do any universities have porn majors? Surely one does, given the huge, huge industry that is 21st century porn. Like a B.S. in Pornography Management?

              1. They don’t offer a B.S. (or a B.A.) but they do off D.A. and D.V. degrees, including a special degree track (kind of like honors) which grants the coveted D.V.D.A. degree.

                1. The porn degree at my school was a master degree. Art Appreciation Master, or A2M for short.

                  1. At my school that was considered a masturbation degree.

                  2. A2M for short.

                    I see what you did there.

              2. Don’t mock my degree!

              3. Do any universities have porn majors?

                University of California-Suckramento?

                1. University of Double Penn?

            2. It seems like Cal State Northridge should be all over this.

          2. We’re also including the option of using the college savings to buy and operate a small franchise instead of earning a college degree. The cost is about the same, and the experience is better.

            “Fluff” majors are fine if you intend to go into certain lines of work for which you merely need the piece of paper saying you made it through college, or if you plan to go to professional graduate school (for instance, a law school).

            1. I’m not objecting to fluff majors entirely. But I am objecting to them as go-to majors, which is what they’ve become. Even if you’re going to law school, majoring in Mayan Sexual Art might not be so wise.

              1. That was my minor! Don’t knock it until you try it!

              2. Agreed. As a lawyer myself, I’m often amazed at how many of my colleagues can’t do basic math. Even trial lawyers have to learn how to multiply by one third…

                1. 2!… the answer’s 2 right?… RIGHT?!

                2. Ive never understood lawyers who didnt have a degree you could actually use if that whole law school thing didnt work out.

                  Plus, if you can get thru engineering or a science program the lsat should be a breeze.

                  1. I suppose I’m biased, but I find there’s a big difference between lawyers who always wanted to go to law school and people like me who planned to do something else and for whatever reason sort of fell into law school. I don’t see how being a poly sci or philosophy major makes you a better lawyer than any other schlub with a bachelor’s degree, but if you have to depose a scientific expert it definitely helps to be the one guy in the room who’s familiar with statistics.

                    1. One major advantage to having a technical B.S. and a law degree is that you can do patent law. Can’t do that with a Gaea Studies degree.

                3. In law school, we did some negotiating exercises in one of my classes. Almost without exception, the only people who could do even do the basic math well (we’d go back and forth with various figures, based on some sort of multipliers–can’t really remember what we were doing, now that it’s 16 years later) were the engineers, physicists, accountants/finance majors. And, of course, those were a small minority.

        2. That’s what my folks offered. I went liberal arts instead, so paid my own way.

          Still ended up in software development, though.

      3. My little brother is a HS educated machinist and makes more than the rest of us in the brood.

        He’s been riding out the decade long Michigan recession quite comfortably.

  3. The only good thing about the 50s was that you could usually find a good job with just a high school diploma.

    1. The only good thing about the ’50s? Perhaps you have forgotten the following albums:

      Charles Mingus Quintet + Max Roach (1955)
      Thelonious Monk, Brilliant Corners (1956)
      Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool (1957)
      John Coltrane, Blue Train (1957)
      Cannonball Adderley, Somethin’ Else (1958)
      Bill Evans, Everybody Digs Bill Evans (1958)
      Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (1959)

      1. Where is the Sonny Rollins in that mix?

        1. My bad… I was thinking his best stuff was ’60s, but actually that was Lee Morgan. And obviously there were plenty of other seminal jazz records in the ’50s; I just picked out my favorites.

          1. Still a good list you put together. I have all but two on it.

        2. And Brubeck’s Time Out. He just celebrated his 90th B-day and you dis him like this? 🙂

      2. …jazz…

        1. …big yawn’s opinion on music…

          1. I don’t like jazz music, and I don’t like it on behalf of you, the common stupid person. Here’s why — hold on, you’re pretty dumb — here’s why: because jazz is all about making the common man feel dumb. That’s all it is. It’s a bunch of guys all playing different songs at the same time. It’s just a racket.

            (Actually a jazz fan, but I thought that bit was hilarious.)

            1. “I don’t like jazz music”

              No one actually likes jazz music. It’s just one of those things people say they like to sound “cultured”.

  4. The reason I’m still a waitress, despite my Masters degree in Post-Colonial Eco-Feminism is entrenched patriarchal structures and general white male privilege and so on and so forth etc.

    1. i want this on a t-shirt.

      /yeah, i’m a man

      1. Feministing meetup near you soon?

    2. Aren’t you supposed to be at a seminar somewhere?

  5. The question is most accurately put as “What skills did they learn in college?”

    If all they learned was how to slide by with minimum effort, then they are going to wind up in low skill jobs – a general BA or BComm is not going to make you a winner in the job market.

    If you learned diligence, persistence and hard work, then you are going to come out a winner, which you may have been even without the diploma. Having those skills in the first place also means you are going to be much better at applying whatever knowledge you gained in the process of earning that diploma.

    1. Among other things, I learned to juggle.

    2. Well said. I used to interview new hires for my last employer and without a doubt the resume that listed accomplishments in just about any field that proved the individual had a track record of reliable production always outweighed what it said on their diploma.

      Employers don’t care how much you learned in art-history class. They want to know if you will show up on time realiably to do your job.

      1. In programming, your degrees are absolutely meaningless (unless you have a Ph.D. in Computer Science). When interviewing someone, I don’t even look at the education part of the resume. All I care about is work experience.

        1. My business partner didnt want CSs with high GPAs. He wanted people who spent too many hours working in the lab on neat stuff instead of doing school work.

          1. You worked for a great company. When I started out in the news biz in 1987, not ONE interviewer asked about my grade point. Not one. But I did have to take a grammar test and write and/or edit news stories to prove I could do the job.

        2. I don’t know a programmer or IT guy who has a four year degree. All of them I know are self taught and then took some community college certification program. But they started working in the field out of high school and now twenty years later know their shit.

          1. Well, you sort of know me and I have two four year degrees, neither of which is computer science (biology and anthropology). My coworkers also have 4 year degrees (one in political science, for instance). A lot of programmers have BAs or BSes, but they are often in something other than CS, especially in startups. And the people that do have CSes are hired by Microsoft or Google.

            1. I wish I had the patience for it. But I just don’t. I don’t like to fiddle with things like that. If I did, I would go teach myself and ditch being a lawyer. I have had it with the law.

              1. I have had it with the law.

                ZOMG!!! John has gone anarchist!

                I always knew you had it in you.

            2. The only people I know who are coders have BSes in CS, but that’s from Cornell and they all work for Apple or Google, so it’s not like they’re representative.

              1. Current Cornell engineering grad student:

                1) Apple and Google are here all the time. It’s ridiculous.

                2) It’s not any harder difficulty than UVM, just more work (ie, they just give more problems of the same difficulty).

                3) As a BSME from UVM I’m a better programmer than the CS senior on my MEng project.

          2. As a software tester I’ve encountered both kinds, but the latter (self-taught) tend to be the best.

            1. Yup. I’ve never taken a computer course in my life, yet I could program when I was 10 years old. Of course, if you are an SDET you are beneath my notice*.

              * just kidding. Not really.

              1. Just came from the LOLA thread…and they were wondering why there aren’t more fem libertarians.
                After going through this thread, I can see why.
                Chicks don’t get math/engineering…
                We need more people like me: Salesmen!

          3. My cousin is like this. I’ve got the Master’s in history; he’s got the semester of tech school and a high school diploma. But he makes a hell of a lot more than I do, and can fix just about anything tech-related after working in the biz for 12 years.

        3. I tend to agree. I used to work at a supercomputer center, and most of the people I worked with had PhDs in Computational Chemistry, Computer Science, etc. The worker drones, while mostly kids getting engineering degrees, also included programmers majoring in Bullshit Studies. And they were usually pretty talented as programmers.

          This is probably even more true in the private sector.

        4. In programming, your degrees are absolutely meaningless … All I care about is work experience.

          So you’re not going to be the guy who gives someone their first job as a programmer. To bad. You could be missing out on some good talent.
          It’s a good thing that my employer didn’t have your attitude or I might still be waiting tables.
          They liked my performance enough to hire two more C.S. graduates from my alma mater.

          1. It’s easier to train someone on the job if you’re a big company. A small entrepreneur would rather have employees with proven track records who can perform at a high level out of the box than take a chance on training a recent graduate. Both strategies have merit depending on the size and maturity of the organization.

        5. I am a programmer with a 4 year degree.

          Most of my peers also have 4 year CS degrees, but i have met some who do not. Haven’t noticed much of a difference between the two, although the degree holders seem to have been exposed to more CS concepts.

          I recently met an 8th grade dropout who is the head IT guy for a small company. Different strokes and all that.

          1. My experience is that on the networking/sys admin/hardware side of IT, degrees are entirely worthless. On the programming side, a CS degree has value, because they are more likely to have been exposed to some higher level concepts, but still isnt that valuable.

            Like I mentioned above, the best bet is the guy with the CS degree who spent 20+ hours a day living in the college computer lab.

        6. Where I work, we tend to look pretty hard at GPA, etc., although not higher degrees. Most people here have a BS in CS (except the intern, who will soon).

          But, we want people who can figure out what to code in addition to coding it, in engineering/control applications, so they need to know statistics, science, and in general have a decent math IQ.

    3. If all they learned was how to slide by with minimum effort, then they are going to wind up in low skill jobs –

      Like President of the United States 🙂

      1. +957

      2. That was golden!

    4. “f you learned diligence, persistence and hard work”

      You can learn those skills easily enough in elementary school.

      1. 1) Critical thinking
        2) Self-esteem

  6. The fallacy at work in the “everybody should go to college thinking” is that college degrees create jobs that require college degrees.

    What we are seeing is the perfectly obvious: the jobs are what they are. If only 20% of the jobs call for a college degree, the fact that 50% of your workforce has a college degree means that . . . 20% of the jobs call for a college degree.

    1. My attitude–even back then–was to major in something marketable but take classes in stuff I was interested in. So I minored (almost double-majored) in History, to go with my Finance degree. I did this while my other friends who planned to go to law school took the usual Political Science or English way out.

      Even so, I wish I’d majored in something technical.

      1. The “English way out”? Because English is easier than Finance? I doubled in English and Economics. English required considerably more effort and work than Economics. I didn’t major in Finance, but I took a class here and there, and it certainly seemed to require less work than my English classes (about the same effort as economics).

        I always thought that unless you are majoring in a specific technical profession, such as engineering, it really doesn’t matter what you major in. Employers have to train you anyway because college isn’t job training, and with a B.A. they just want to see you are capable of sticking with and doing decently at something for four years. How many people do you know who are working in the field they majored in? I know very few. I look at my family and see a business major who is an editor, a biology major who is in law enforcement, an economics major who is a lawyer, a music major who is a doctor, a history major who is a pastor, an English major who is an Administrative Assistant…I don’t often see people actually going into the fields they majored in.

        1. English was cake for me. I took some senior-level English classes. I also took (this is J-school) Technical Writing, which was fun because it had the J-school rule of dropping you a letter grade for each grammar/spelling error. This before the computer checked everything for you.

        2. English was so meaningless at my alma mater that they exempted me from all the core requirements due to the quality of my entrance essay. No joke. Hence, English major = teacher, tits, or GTFO.

          Don’t get me wrong. I love the language and the literature. I find etymology fascinating, I visit Grammar Girl at least once a week, the Ted talk from the glasses wearing hot library chick is one of my favorite, while Stephen Pinker’s politics may be lacking his theses on language are often brilliant (and he has a degree in psychology). But as a degree, unless you work for a publisher, it seems to have little value. Languages change and evolve constantly so as long as the masses understand and the literature isn’t burned I see little use for it as a primary course of study. It would be better served by integrating it into other degree programs.

          1. english and linguistics are two different things, thun.

          2. Commas, please.

        3. I am a Computer Science major with an Econ minor. I liked both areas of study and found the classes relatively easy (I still had to do all the work, but I didn’t mind doing it).

          I have a couple of friends who are English majors and I am pretty sure I would have flunked out of college if I were an English major. I was horrified to witness all the work they had to do.

          1. I started out as Comp Sci major and after completing my minor, switched to Econ as my major. The bonus was that I ended up with a math minor as well.

            English sucks because it requires writing WAY too much. However, I recognize that there are people out there who enjoy (and are good at) that.

            Most of my friends with less technical degrees were horrified at some of the math problems I had to do.

            1. “English sucks because it requires writing WAY too much.”

              On the other hand, science and engineering requires being right, whereas English requires being able to BS your professor and appeal to their vanity and prejudice. I never had any problems with English/lit/writing.

    2. RC, one could argue that the glut of college educated people has ‘created’ jobs that require a degree. In that more jobs require a degree whether or not it is needed to execute the job successfully. For example art history majors becoming sales reps.

      Ultimately there are more jobs that require a degree, but not more jobs total.

      1. What you are talking about is credentialing creep, where employers require a degree from applicants, but where the job functions don’t really require any kind of higher ed.

        My wife is running into this, and it pisses her off. You have to have a Masters to get an interview for jobs, when there is no conceivable reason for it other than credentialism.

        1. If you know someone you can get past the HR department. Every job I’ve ever interviewed for required an MA I don’t have. I was hired first while still a senior.

  7. Man, do I sympathize with those waiters and cashiers.

    Don’t get me wrong, working in restraunts and the service industry is honest hard word (and admirable)…but it’s also one of the most dehumanizing jobs in the industrialized world.

    Seriously, after doing it for a couple of years, you will grow to hate your customers.

    1. I am a firm believer that everyone should have to work some type of restaraunt gig for at least six months before they graduate college.

      Then there wouldn’t be so many shitty tippers out there.

      1. Fuck ’em. I’m okay with tipping waiters, but this tipping people for standing behind a counter crap is beyond stupid. Get a real job!

        1. Agreed there. Very little excuse for that.

      2. In my experience the worst tippers in the world are lawyers.

        1. I wonder if it’s a generational thing. Whenever I go out with my co-workers or friends from law school we always tip between 18 and 20%, but nearly all of us are 35 and under.

    2. Service Industry: Where the public channels it’s own self-directed frustration e.g when someone goes ape-shit on a barista because they asked for nutmeg and not cinnamon on their latte.

      1. Agreed. I don’t think people should work in the service industry at some point in their life so they become good tippers so much as they should work in the service industry at some point so they learn to treat servers as human beings.

        I spent one summer in college (~1999) doing corporate catering at an office of 3Com. Boy did some of those people treat me like shit. I’m not a vengeful guy but it feels good to be a successful professional while the office I worked at was closed after the dot-com bust. And for the record, I’m extremely polite to the catering staff in our office.

        1. Yeah, that’s the point I really meant to make, not so much the tipping part. While I was writing that comment it brought back all these memories of working at a nice restaraunt with rich clientele who were some of the cheapest neediest ungrateful FUCKS to every soil the planet.

          I have issues.

        2. I started out doing construction work, then moved to cooking because I thought it would be easier/steadier…wrong.

          So after cooking for a couple years I turned my head to the front of the house thinking that waiting tables would be more lucrative/easier…wrong.

          I am going back to school right now to get the fuck out of the restaurant business. Because if I don’t then I’ll kill somebody.

          I will say this though working in restaurants has been way more interesting than anything else that I have done. It attracts the craziest people, and is very libertarian. Your coworkers don’t give a shit if you’re a cross dressing junkie when you leave work, as long as you do a good job when you’re there.

          1. Good luck capital L, I spent about ten years like yourself in the front and back of restaraunts, and all it did was reinforce my need to get the FUCK out of that industry. I almost went to CIA when I was still young and unspoiled in my attitude towards working in a kitchen. I would probably still be paying back that loan right now.

            Hope it works out for you, it did for me..

            1. Thanks, I appreciate that.

              I can almost see the finish line from here(been in school 3yrs). After january I am moving to the back of the house and reducing hrs to focus on finishing school.

              1. Ha!

                Yes, I am going to finishing school, as my language is fucking atrocious, and my manners are goddamn boorish. I have been around immigrants too damn long.

          2. I started off cooking for a living until I discovered it was work. I then went to college for Computer Science, and in the mean time went over to the dark side (became a waiter).
            Now I sit on my ass in front of a computer all day making more than I ever could in a restaurant, and eat gourmet food at home.

        3. I only had to work in the service industry for two days to get all those effects.

        4. I moved furniture. The industrial moves were hard but they treated you decently. The rich residential moves were weird because you were just invisible to the client. They’d talk to the main guy (usually the truck driver) but they’d look right through the movers like we didn’t exist.

      2. It’s not just servers who get shit on. If you want be on the receiving end of a massive shovel of shit every day, work in customer facing computer repair. I understand the reason – people become less polite when dealing with something they simultaeneously need, fear, and don’t understand. I learned a ton about human nature and face to face communication during that time but man was it emotionally tough.

        1. I feel for you, Sean.

          I work at Best Buy, first in customer service and then at the Tech Bench.

          Every day was a living hell.

          You described it to a ‘T’: “people become less polite when dealing with something they simultaeneously need, fear, and don’t understand”.

  8. I think that is a great irony that this article claims that we are sending too many people to college, but misspells “cluster”.

    1. That coming from someone who apparently either doesn’t know the meaning of ‘great’, or has no sense of scale. The latter being a prerequisite for being a progressive just so you know why they are constantly mocked on this forum.

  9. There is one other factor that is not mentioned. Sometime in the 1960s society stopped valuing manual labor. Somehow people got it into their heads this leftist bullshit idea that there is something demeaning about shining shoes or digging ditches or do anything else that didn’t involve wearing a suit and tie. So parents decided that they didn’t want their kids to end up in these demeaning professions and sent their kids to college to avoid such a fate.

    Well as Judge Smalls once said, “the world needs ditch diggers to”. Like most problems we have, this one is at least partially the result of post war liberalism.

    1. He also said that he never sliced, and, clearly, he was wrong about that.

    2. In fairness to those parents John–would you rather your kid dig ditches or shine shoes until he’s 65 or his back gives out, whichever happens first, or would you rather have your kid work in a white collar environment? I’ve done both and one is certainly a lot more comfortable than the other, at least physically. Not to mention the earnings ceiling is much higher for many white collar jobs.

      I’m not saying all kids are cut out for that and should be pushed into office work. I think parents should try to be honest about what their kids’ abilities are. But I think at least part of their desire for the kids to avoid that would be wanting their kids to have a better life than they did as well as hoping that their kids’ ceiling in life will be pretty high.

      1. But a lot of those ditch diggers turn into contractors and make a fortune. There are more ways to make money then by working in an office.

        1. But the world still needs ditch diggers, so some of them won’t.

          1. Build a better backhoe, and the world will beat a path to your door.

          2. By that logic, the next generation of ditch diggers aren’t replacing the current ones.

    3. You are 100% right. My entire childhood was a continual reminder that working with your hands is for losers (despite the fact that is what my father did and was successful at it). Unfortunately, office work makes me want to slit my wrists. Nothing would make me happier (and my ability to generate income easier) than a renewed respect for artisans.

    4. Judge Smails. I’m gonna chalk up your misspelling to post war liberalism as well.

    5. I have a white-collar job job but I did my fair share of blue-collar work before going to college and getting a degree. I think I’d rather make more money and not come home in pain every day.

      We don’t really need “ditch diggers” per se. Robots and other automations are wonderful!

      Now we need robots to clean restrooms and flip burgers.

      1. then you need people to run and fix the machines that dig the ditches. The point it that there is nothing inferior about getting your hands dirty in a job.

        1. Sure… unless that is a euphemism for doing something underhanded or illegal.

        2. The guy running the end loader at the coal fired generating plant is making good money. So are crane operators, the folks who fix MRIs and CAT scanners, the radars at the airport, the engines on the planes, …

          R.C. Dean had it right. We don’t have enough jobs that require a degree to justify the number of degree holders.

          Add in the fact that if you’re a dumbshit with a degree, you’re still just a dumbshit.

      2. I fucking hate manual labor with a passion bordering on nuclear. The little bit I did before getting a white collar programming job just made me aware of how important it was (for me, not everyone) to do something with my brain and not my hands.

        1. I did not mind most of my manual labor jobs, but being flat-footed it was extremely painful for me after a few hours of standing. By the end of the day, I could barely walk home and just spent the rest of the night relaxing. This happened for months at a time.

          Nope, definitely not for me.

          1. Yeah, I love to cook but if I had to stand in front of a burner all day it would destroy my back, which basically made being a chef a non-starter for me.

            1. The other problem is that from reading Anthony Bourdain’s books, it appears that most chefs are such cock suckers, I can’t imagine working in the restaurant industry for more than a week without kicking someone’s teeth in and ending up unemployed and in jail.

              1. See, it sounds perfect for me. But it’s the standing all day that would kill me.

          2. Jesus! What is wrong with you people?
            I love spending the entire doing intense landscaping work; planting large trees, setting boulders, etc.. then I go home, shower, take a short nap THEN go to the gym for 45-60min of weight lifting.
            I spent a year at a desk job and it was awful. I started getting fat, so had to start watching what I ate, my body felt sluggish and lazy, my back pain actually got worse….Despite making a pretty nice salary, I quit.
            Human body was not designed to sit or lay down for the majority of the day.

            1. I’m pretty sure our nomadic ancestors did not do back breaking work for 8 hrs a day 5 days a week. They had a pretty laid back lifestyle with hunting and gathering, but those are not all that labor intensive. But food was not a certainty, and you had to deal with weather, predators, and other problems.

              1. Our nomadic ancestors used to hunt antelopes by running them to death see a rather long but interesting article…..o-run4.php I don’t know if this counts as manual labor to you but it sure would to me.

        2. My brother had a sewage pipe break in his yard. I helped him dig it out (not quite as disgusting as it sounds, as the sewage had drained off by the time we got to it, but the digging part did suck). We both commented on multiple times how insane it would be to be doing that for a living, especially in your 40s.

          1. Tell the truth. You broke the sewage line with an enormous, 10 Couric dump.

            1. It’s typical Florida construction. Whoever placed the pipe in the first place decided that thin-walled PVC was more than adequate. Slap the shit up and move on to the next house!

          2. —“We both commented on multiple times how insane it would be to be doing that for a living, especially in your 40s.”—

            Physical work is like any other job. If you don’t do it a lot, you don’t develop the proper muscles (or mental skills). When you have to dig up the sewer line in the yard, you are using muscles you are not used to using. I am 58 and a large part of my job is physical. I’m not sore at the end of the day. That is not to say that I want to do the physical part all of the time, but it does make for a less boring time than when I am at my desk.

            When I was young, I got the whole “Go to college” thing, and decided it wasn’t for me at that time. Later in life I decided to go back and get an Engineering degree. I was bored out of my mind in class. Some of that was due to the Instructors having to explain things several times to the students who were there because they had been told that you need a degree, when for the most part, you don’t. Having been employed for many years (and incidentally, I love my job), I was used to things moving forward apace. I just didn’t have the patience for the repetition. So I didn’t get a degree.

            It turned out well for me, as I make a good salary, good benefits and all. And I must say that, careerwise, I am not anywhere near where I had envisioned myself in my youth, but I like it.

    6. Proof that some people can see a left/right slant to anything and everything!

      Social climbing sounds capitalistic to my ears.

  10. While I agree that credential inflation is a problem, the study cited appears to overstate the effect. After all, it is a static picture. If you take a snapshot of the economy, plenty of college educated workers (particularly recent grads) are doing jobs they’re overqualified for. It doesn’t mean that they will be doing so forever.

    The same picture emerges in poverty studies. Since they typically use static data, it is easy to convince people that poverty is a much bigger issue than it is. When taking into account that people who are poor at 20 are not necessarily poor at 40, the problem is much less serious. Same deal here.

    1. Re: Steve Lafleur,

      If you take a snapshot of the economy, plenty of college educated workers (particularly recent grads) are doing jobs they’re overqualified for. It doesn’t mean that they will be doing so forever.

      Granted, but that’s not the issue, it’s the present value of the investment in college education. If your education only delivers fruits after 10 or 15+ years of working, instead of oh, let us say, 3 years, then clearly the investment is not worth it.

      If an apprenticeship can deliver on your investment a higher paying job QUICKER, then that investment makes more sense. This is a reason why technical apprenticeships and careers have gained such momentum.

      You HAVE to take into consideration the PRESENT value of your reward and compare it to OTHER investments (the opportunity cost).

      1. Not to mention the fact that many of these workers are likely using up their prime, healthy, income-generating years trying to pay back an onerous amount of student loan debt (along with buying the latest iPhone), and aren’t willing/able to save for the future.

        The real issue here is whether these graduates are getting the return on investment they supposedly made to get that degree, when they are paying back far more than it initially cost to get the education in the first place. Not all degrees are created equal, no matter what our parents, teachers, and the media told us when we were kids.

      2. The time value of money. I learned that in college.

      3. Holy jebeezerus krautus cripe crap. You’re a Wild Mexican Anarchist and this is the best you can do?

        If people want to waste their money on degrees that don’t pay for themselves — the problem is precisely what?

        The problem here is that these worthless degrees are being sucked out of the biggest boobs in the universe (Largus Mammarius Glans ever) called the US government, in all its various local, state, and federal incarnations (a boob of many strands is not soon broken).

        But instead, we’ve got an anarchist complaining here because people want to make their own stupid decisions.

        You’re slipping here, Wild Mexican Anarchist.

    2. I think this is a valid point.

      If you took a snapshot in 1980, what percentage of ALL college degree holders had, at that moment, a low-skilled job? Now take a snapshot in 1990. What percentage of ALL college degree holders, at that moment, had a low-skileld job? Now 2000…2010. That would be a better comparison. Has the percentage increased dramatically?

      Also, what other factors might affect that percentage? People make different job choices and don’t “settle down” into a job as soon these days for all sorts of reasons: marrying later, having children later, more women looking for flexible jobs to spend more time at home with the kids, etc.

      Finally – are they counting an associate’s degree as a “college degree”?

      I think a lot of people work low skilled jobs right out of college for a number of mundane reasons – they’re in grad school, and earning some extra; they’re killing time until they go off to grad school; they’re engaged and killing time until they get married and plan to look for a “real job” when they move with their spouse; they refuse to seek permanent middle-class work outside of their specific field of major and are working a low-skilled job until they can find work in their field (instead of just changing fields), etc.

      I;m sure there has been an increase in the percentage of degree holders who can’t get a high-skilled job, but it may be overstated here. That is, saying 60% of the increase have low-skilled jobs…yes – it’s a good question – what percent of the increase will have low skilled jobs in 5 years?

      1. Re: Obvious,

        Whatever the reasons people remain in low-pay jobs after graduation, it belies the notion that college equals high paying job.

        1. What seems unconscionable are the vast number of graduates who come out the other side of college with no grasp of the labor market whatsoever. Isn’t college supposed to provide some vague notion of preparation for adulthood? Keats and Yates are all very nice, but…

  11. Sixty percent of the increase in the number of college grads between 1992 and 2008 are doing low-skilled jobs that used to be done by people with high school diplomas or less.

    Well, those low-skill jobs are now very intellectually demanding. Only Liberal Arts and Social Studies grads can successfully and efficiently serve a Caffe Mocha Grande.

  12. I went to college for something like three years. I gained very little from the experience and didn’t graduate, and came away from it all with the firm belief that college is almost entirely bullshit unless you’re going for something specific and specialized like law, medicine, engineering, etc.

    If I could do my 18-23 years again knowing what I know now, I would skip college. At least then I wouldn’t still be paying off this stupid student loan.

    1. If I had it to over again, I would have joined the Army on the condition that they sent me to then West Germany. I would have spent my 18-22 life partying and raising hell and getting paid for it. Then done college on the GI bill and grown up later.

      1. I would have joined the Army on the condition that they sent me to then West Germany.

        I’m pretty sure this is an impossible condition.

        1. No it wasn’t. Not when we had 500,000 people sitting in the Fulda gap. Back then, you could chose your MOS or where you went. And if you had a really high ASVAB score you could chose both. I know several people who did exactly what I am talking about and had a ball. You just had to be willing to be in whatever MOS they sent you to.

          1. My dad joined in 1960 (he knew he’d be drafted soon, anyway) just so he could choose his MOS (and to make certain the Marines didn’t take him.) He got a decent education in technical electronics out of it, and spent most of his time teaching people electronics.

            My ASVAB was high enough that I could have gone into Intel, but I wanted to join the Army as much as I would currently like to be in jail.

            1. I believe the Marines only accept volunteers.

              1. Actually, there have been periods in which the Marines drafted people. Vietnam, for example.

                1. Thanks SG,

                  I’ve learned something today.

                2. —“Actually, there have been periods in which the Marines drafted people. Vietnam, for example.”—

                  Ah yes. When I went for my draft physical (1969), there was line of new inductees. The seargent went down the line pointing to each man….

                  “Army, Army Army, Marines, Army, Army, Army, Marines.”

    2. Or maybe go for three years and actually manage to graduate in that time?

      1. Nah. Too much bullshit to wade through.

  13. Some people are just plain stupid.

    The top executive at General Motors said Friday that the automaker’s attempt to rebound from its bankruptcy is being hindered by salary limits the government has clamped on executives at companies that accepted federal bailouts.

    GM CEO Dan Akerson said in a speech to the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., that the company faces many challenges, including the retention of top talent in its executive ranks. He suggested relaxing the pay limits, and said he was meeting later in the day with federal officials who oversee executive compensation for companies that received bailouts.

    “We have to be competitive. We have to be able to attract and retain great people,” Akerson said, adding, “We’ve been able to retain them but we’re starting to lose them and I think that’s an issue for our owners to recognize that in their best interest, there should be some relaxing.”


    Akerson is receiving a government-approved $9 million in annual compensation, including stock and salary.

    1. FSM, I can’t wait until GM goes tits up again. Hopefully, we won’t have a president who is beholden to the UAW when it happens.

    2. His quote was talking about executives in general, he didn’t say his salary wasn’t competitive.

      This is a double edged sword that is just another reason not bail out failing businesses. On the one hand, anyone that excepted government should just shut the fuck up and take what they get because their owned by the taxpayers now and by all rights shouldn’t still have a job. On the other hand, if you don’t pay a competitive wage and lose all your talent then the government will never get its money back. Tough line to walk. Reason number 496 to let bad companies fail instead of bailing them out.

      1. That assumes that most top exectutives actually bring something unique to the table. A few do. But most do not. They are on their ass and don’t have money to throw around. Just like the Twins compete by signing younger, cheaper talent instead of competing with the Red Sox and Yankees for top talent, maybe GM should look at trying some different less proven people.

        1. Yeah, I would agree with you. How much “top talent” could they have if they needed to come crawling to the government for a bailout?

          I kind of just took him at his word that he could identify who was “top talent” and who wasn’t.

  14. I was going to insert a lawyer joke in here, but considering the number of them reading this, I’ll back off.

    Also, I wish I was interested in cars. Mechanic school takes under two years, there are plenty of jobs, and you can live / work anywhere there are cars.

    1. Whatever one can say about the legal profession–and one can say much–most lawyers aren’t working behind a cash register. Of course, the profession perpetuates itself by running the government and creating pointless new regulations to comply with, laws with which to terrorize the innocent, and so on.

    2. yeah. There is a show on HD net called Chasing Classic Cars. It is about a guy named Wayne Carini who is in the business of buying, restoring and selling high end classic cars. His mechanic is this old, cantankerous guy named Roger. The guy can fix anything. He gets to work on fabulous cars for a living, is no doubt paid extremely well, and doesn’t have to put up with any bullshit. If I am ever re-incarnated I want to come back as a Brazilian soccer star. But if I can’t get that, I would take being Roger.

      1. I’d rather be an Italian, German, or Spanish soccer star. Still get all the women you could ever want, but don’t have to worry about a gang kidnapping your family and holding them for ransom because they know you’re rich like what happened to Robinho.

        1. Good point. I have a real thing for Latin women, so Brazil seems the natural choice for me. I hadn’t heard that about Robinho. That sucks.

          1. What about Argentinian soccer star? You can still get all the Latin women you want but as far as I know Argentina is much safer than Brazil.

            1. That would work. The Argentine MILF who lives across the street from me is gorgeous and in love with Lionel Messe. She would leave her husband and daughter for the guy I think. Being Argentine star would work just fine.

            2. Do you really want to become a morbidly obese dope fiend/Castro apologist like Diego Maradona?

          2. I have a real thing for Latin women

            And I thought you were all about libertarian pundits with hyphenated last names.

            1. Those to. If Reason ever hires a Katherine Blanco-Diaz, they will have to take out a restraining order.

      2. I love that show!

      3. Love love love that Ferrari yellow

    3. Went to mortuary school (one year program) and made $75K a year after my 18-month apprenticeship. Decided the hours sucked and quit but, really, how many 19-year-olds can make that much money doing something legal and relatively easy?

      1. Yeah, but you are a mortician. True, it is a license to print money. But would anyone do it if it wasn’t?

        1. That is until people stop dying! Morticians will be put out of work in the mythical Messianic era!

          And when the dead are resurrected, all their hard work will be undone! Such a travesty!

          1. It’s sisyphean, really.

          2. Some are already being put out of work by the low-cost shift from burial to cremation.

            1. The service charges aren’t much less for cremations than standard burials.

              Actually, the owner of my funeral home bought a “discount” cremation service and made MORE money because he catered to people who didn’t see the point in spending $10K on a funeral.

              Most of the money is made on service charges and not so much with merchandise like caskets.

        2. Yeah, but you are a mortician lawyer. True, it is a license to print money. But would anyone do it if it wasn’t?

      2. Morticians make $75 a year?


        1. x 1,000

          In NoVA, yeah. And that’s starting.

  15. I haven’t seen this point explicitly called out, so allow me:
    the proliferation of college degree-holders has resulted in a plethora of jobs that ought not require a college degree, but do anyway.
    This accelerates the trend — when a college degree is seen as ‘getting your ticket punched’, and job seekers are evaluated, in part, on whether they have taken that particular ride, then lots of people will get a college degree in order to get a job that really doesn’t require one.
    This isn’t new (goes back *at least* to the mid-80’s) but it is accelerating, thanks to all the sympathy offered up to those who “can’t afford” college.

    no hugs for thugs,
    Shirley Knott

    1. your e-mail address is sknott…hehe…snot…hehe

      my infantile humor is all that keeps me sane.

  16. That’s always been the flaw of the “get everyone educated” mentality that they STILL push today. It’s even worse in Europe. But there are more and more jobs requiring college degrees when the specific skills required to do the job can be easily be performed by someone without a degree. It’s just become so pervasive in society to have that degree that it is becoming a requirement.

    I wonder how much longer it will be before cashiers and waiters are required to have college degrees.

    1. At a local Portland, OR bookstore, the cashiers are required to have advanced degrees. Or so it is said.

  17. if you don’t pay a competitive wage and lose all your talent


    What a load of bullshit. Particularly in the case of GM.

  18. cf. The estimable Charles Murray on this subject.

  19. When I used to cook I worked with some highly educated wait staff.
    There was one guy with a degree in Environmental Science who couldn’t find work in his field of study. One lady graduated top of her class with a Masters in English and was making more money waiting tables than she could with her degree. The only people who left the restaurant were a couple guys who studied Engineering.
    So I chose to study Computer Science and I now pay more in taxes than I earned as a cook.

  20. Ancient American History.
    My 1950’s grade school days were spent in the suburbs of Rochester NY.
    One family down the street had emigrated from Cuba.
    Mr. Fredricks (this was their real name as I remember) was a beautician and his wife was studying at Beauty School so they could work together.
    I clearly remember her telling me she had to take classes in history, literature and art just so she would be able to carry on a conversation with her clients.

  21. I am a parent of a 2 year old.

    While I want my daughter to get a good job, she doesn’t neccisarily have to go to college.

    My advice to her is to do something she likes, and then she will never have to work a day in her life.

    1. That’s one way to guarantee her a life of poverty.

      1. I guess I should have said more in my initial comment.

        I went to school in the mid to late 80’s when Computer Science was a hot major. I saw a lot of people who got into because it had a high starting salary. I also saw a lot of people drop the major after a year or two because they found it too tough and only got into it because of the high starting salary. The only people who stuck it out where people who liked to program.

        Now, after 20 plus years, I have met many people who got some generic degree in college and were miserable going from job to job until they found a job they really liked that had nothing to do with their degree.

        So, because of your post, Some Guy, I will know tell my daughter to figure out something that she likes that people will pay you an above average wage to do, but not to waste her time/my money going to college to get ‘a degree’ so that she can get a ‘good paying job’.

  22. Exactly how I will treat my daughter, Lurker. So I’m in violent agreement about the college optional sentiment here. That aside, when I was in college in Arizona in the 70s, I worked construction during the summer in 110-plus degrees. That cured me of any thought I had of not completing my college education. And despite getting what some would consider “fluff” degrees (English, Poli sci), I’ve had a pretty good career.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Ed.

      Yeah, crummy summer jobs definately motivated me to finish college. One summer I worked in a factory that made air conditioners. Ironically, to me at least, the factory itself was not air conditioned.

  23. I think the disconnect here is between educated and skilled. 40 or 50 years ago college graduates (for the most part) got both and education and a skill. Degrees like chemistry, accounting, engineering, business, nursing, etcetera gave people opportunities to ply a trade that made them a great deal more than even skilled blue collared types because these skills were in demand.

    Today college graduates (at least a large percentage of them) are not learning a skill and are receiving rather poor educations. Looking into some of the more popular degrees today (communications, Social Sciences, psychology, History, English) seems to indicate that once graduated, these kids have few job opportunities because demand for what they learned is so low. So they take retail jobs that pay $9.00/hr and have to pay back $10,000’s in loans. Or worse, they go to graduate school and perpetuate the cycle be becoming university faculty and enlarging departments that don’t produce graduates with skills that the market is looking for.

    1. Re: Mike,

      In short: Most college grads are wasting resources and time.

      Smell a speculative bubble here, anyone?

    2. What I don’t understand is why some of those 5 listed popular degrees aren’t in more demand. I’ve seen so many people who can’t write, and so much that you need to do to get anything done requires communication, you’d think that’d be in demand more. English you’d think would be the same, except that I understand its name is misleading, and very little of it has to do with practical use of the language. However, psychology you’d think would be boffo because persuasion is based on psychology, and most things in life require some sort of persuasion or selling other people. What am I failing to get here?

      1. Perhaps the market only needs a certain amount of English, Communications, Social Science and Psychology degrees at the Bachelor’s level.

        For Social Sciences and Psychology at least, I believe you need at least a masters or a doctorate before people come looking for you.

        1. Doesn’t it seem there are too many salespeople for them to all need advanced degrees? And doesn’t it seem that such subjects, which aren’t covered in high school, would be very valuable in sales?

  24. communications, Social Sciences, psychology, History, English

    Thanks Mike for posting a top 5 list of what I will forbid my daughter from majoring in.

  25. Two thoughts:

    (1) My father made damn sure I had the worst summer jobs possible when I was in high school and in early college. He later admitted this, and said he did so to make sure that his rather surly and oddly motivated son understood what life would be like if he fucked up in college.

    (2) In my experience, people who go into a line of work solely for the money are rarely very successful at it, and are never happy with it. Liking what you do is an important part of being successful at it.

  26. I’d be big on people taking more Math classes for entirely cynical reasons

    Econ(Micro)/History major with a minor in Math. If more people took Math they could have more specialized classes and I wouldn’t HAVE TO FUCKING LEARN ABOUT PHYSICS WHEN ITS COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT TO MY GODDAMN MAJOR

    (Harmonic Oscillators can fuck themselves)

    1. In seriousness though, the bad thing about the swarm of people going to college (and inevitably ending up in… squishy… majors) is that it fucks over legitimate people in those majors.

      I know some English people who’d make fine workers, probably good lawyers too. But nobodies going to be able to differentiate them from the Critical Theory types or the pure lazy. There’s so much overcrowding and grade inflation that they’re all indistinguishable

    2. Are you kidding? In microeconomics there are so many situations that produce negative feedback loops with lag times that harmonic oscillation must be a major factor.

  27. “The stats show people who probably wouldn’t have gone to college in another era, responded to incentives like cheap loans and went to college in the ’90s or ’00s, graduated at 22- or 23-years-old, and then got the same gigs they would have been qualified for at 18.”

    Another way to look at that is to say the market for entry labor in many fields is so flooded, sometimes great candidates wait tables while mediocre ones gey the desired position. If there’s anything a college does, it’s help a student polish a resume and give them stock interview tips. For every job I post in Baltimore, I get roughly 200+ applicants. Most all entry level college graduates have a Student Affairs polished resume and are ready with talking points. Finding the really motivated/talented in a huge candidate field is tough. Many times so-so applicants get in, and better ones sit in marginal jobs on the sidelines. Not because they can’t do the job, but because they weren’t as ‘on’ in a limited interview setting (which really is no indicator of future performance, even in sales)as another person that day. The massive increase of applicants has had the effect of exponentially growing the largely useless (except in a very narrow sense) and overly-bureaucratic Human Resource department in many business. So now a manager like me can’t even make a gut call on an applicant that applying for my department, some 23 year-old bimbo in HR has to make the call following whatever corporate-Tiki God wisdom of the month.

    Ironically, the ‘EVERYBODY GET TO COLLEGE’ mantra espoused by the ever-charitable elite has had the effect of making personal/family connections more important than ever. Especially for entry-level applicants. So basically a policy (supposedly) designed to help the masses has made the job market more ‘aristocratic’ than ever. Or in other words, the connected do increasingly better and the regular entry-level applicant finds more difficulty than ever.

    1. That analysis sure backs up my experience, unfortunately. I’m poor, chronically underemployed, highly qualified. The HR bottleneck is so daunting (and I was even a personnel sec’y for most of a year 30 years ago) I hardly even apply any more to posted jobs except for gov’t jobs, the latter excepted because they hire from exams. I just didn’t have good cx, and today it seems more than ever, trust is such a paramount factor that nobody wants to hire strangers. This is too bad, because it goes against the division of labor that a supposedly advanced and large society should have, and sends us back to a simpler time.

      Fortunately it looks like I’m finally about to make money doing the very sort of thing I thought I was prepared for (testing health-related products), because one friend of many years made friends with someone else for other reasons and launched a business made necessary by new FTC regs.

      I’ve also been on the other side of this racket: teaching science as an adjunct, mostly to people who’ve gone back to school as an adult to fulfill some perceived need that probably either wasn’t really there or was propped up by credentialism.

    2. My parents are both farmers from the middle of nowhere Vermont. I went to college and graduated magna cum laude from my mechanical engineering program. I ended up stuck in grad school after getting 1 interview (out of 100+ applications) while my classmates (many of whom I tutored) pretty much all got jobs because their dad worked with some guy a couple a years ago.

      1. “Many of whom I tutored” reminds me of how 2 years ago after I applied for temporary assistance (i.e. welfare), I wound up attending mandatory (but useless) classes at the Federation Employment Guidance Service, where one of the teachers and one of the administrators who serviced me were each former students of mine.

  28. What percentage went to college because they could otherwise afford to (they did not avail themselves of government subsidised student loans) and still end up as waiters and cashiers?

  29. Education has always been a key to a better future, it will always be.

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