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July 1992, Vol. 115, No. 7

Reconciling conflicting data on jobs for college graduates

Daniel E. Hecker

Since the early 1970's, the data suggest a growing proportion of college graduates are in jobs that usually do not require at least a bachelor's degree. Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis of data related to the employment of college graduates indicates that there are more jobseekers with college degrees than there are openings in jobs requiring a degree.1 News reports and surveys by government agencies and private organizations on the employment patterns of recent college graduates support this conclusion. BLS projects that this divergence will continue through 2005.2

In contrast to this apparent mismatch of jobs and jobseekers, articles in research and popular journals in recent years have pointed out that since 1979, earnings of college graduates have increased sharply relative to earnings of high school graduates. Some analysts have interpreted this to mean that employers were forced to bid up the wages of college graduates in order to fill vacant jobs-an action likely to occur only when there is a shortage of graduates.

Analysis of earnings data by educational level clearly confirm a sharp rise in earnings for college graduates relative to those of high school graduates during the 1980's. However, this article concludes that the relative earnings increase for college graduates was the result of a worsening job market for male high school graduates, not because of a shortage of workers with college degrees.

This excerpt is from an article published in the July 1992 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.

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1 See Jon Sargent and Janet Pfleeger, "The Job Outlook for College Graduates to the Year 2000," Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Summer 1990. Previous analyses the outlook for college graduates was published in the Winter 1979 and Summer 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1988 issues of Quarterly.

2 See Kristina J. Shelley, "The future of jobs for college graduates," page 13, this issue.

Related BLS programs
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
Employment Projections
Related Monthly Labor Review articles
Earnings of college graduates: women compared with men. March 1998.
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Earnings of college graduates, 1993. December 1995.
Recent data on job prospects of college-educated youth. August 1993.

The future of jobs for college graduates. July 1992.

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