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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Huge Variance in Wages of Male College Grads Discourages College Enrollment

The Huge Variance in Wages of Male College Grads Discourages College Enrollment

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 04:55

Eduardo Porter's column on the drop in college graduation rates in the United States relative to other wealthy countries ignored the large variance in the wages of male college grads. While there is little dispersion for the wages of women who graduate college, this is not the case for men.

There are a substantial number of male college graduates who can anticipate wages that are less then the top quartile of men without college degrees. The marginal college graduate is presumably more likely to be in this group of low earners. If they recognize the risk of not being a high earner many men may opt not to take the time and incur the expense of getting a college degree even if on average it would make them better off.

Comments (10)Add Comment
I'm one of those "marginal" guys
written by Edward Ericson Jr., June 26, 2013 7:27
Took a job in journalism, about 25 years ago. Kept at it. Earn a little less than half the average college-educated white male my age.
written by Last Mover, June 26, 2013 7:49

Pink Floyd is back with a vengeance.

We don't need no education ... only to be structually underemployed and underpaid.
finally too much college...
written by pete, June 26, 2013 10:04
If we followed European models (they are loved for health care, why not education) we would track folks at much earlier ages into trades where they could build productivity and self esteem rather than being told all during high school that its either college or failure. One could easily get an entry level health care job, like a lab tech, or phlebotomist, etc., by age 19...rather than working at MacDonalds and getting a AA degree from a junior college and then...

BTW, at many private colleges, female freshman outnumber male freshman, at pretty high rates, like 60% to 40% or so. This is in part because of encouragement for girls that they can do math, etc. Unfortunately, this new found ability has left the boys in the dust. Clearly some differentiation in education has to happen at earlier ages.
written by freebird, June 26, 2013 10:22
The earners of top quartile wages among men without college degrees probably includes skilled tradespeople (technicians, electricians, plumbers, etc) and those who launched successful small businesses. Is it unreasonable that these people outearn the "marginal college graduate"? Would society be better off had these people attended college and subsequently became megacorp salarymen?

We're on a hiring binge for college grads and I'm trying to convince my management to open our candidate pool to those who received acceptance letters from top universities. These kids will be younger and will require more training, but I think four years of in-house experience would serve them (and us) better than a curriculum of topics that is mostly irrelevant for our business needs. Also maybe it's hard to imagine now, but retention may become more of an issue going forward a decade or so.
Hard to deny what's right in front of you
written by Jennifer, June 26, 2013 11:07
The fact is, the job market is just horrible for the average, non-connected graduate. You can tell people as often as you want that a college degree is "worth it" but the vast majority of jobs are in the retail sector. Any talk with new graduates is focused on survival, not a career. Any real talk of getting more people in college must seriously address the unchecked rise in college costs-and this rise IS NOT going to faculty (the vast majority being adjuncts) but to administration and new building costs. This coupled with colleges gaming Pell grants so that the poorest do not get the assist they need, does not get enough attention.
http://newamerica.net/sites/ne... Final.pdf
corrected link
written by Jennifer, June 26, 2013 11:13
Concentration is key
written by nassim sabba, June 26, 2013 11:51
It is hard to see why graphic designers bother with college, or history majors, literature majors, and so on, if their goal is to get a good paying job.
If they have academic interests to better themselves personally, then yes, by all means, do that and get a job at a retail outlet or restaurant. Don't expect to be paid the same as a communications engineer.
It behooves me that there is little discussion of the majors that are in demand, which are mostly technical, and practical technical at that, such as programming, electronics, robotics, and so on, which require a good grasp of mathematics at the college level.
There are so many literature majors without much peripheral skills. Is society obligated to have positions for them at high salaries? What would they contribute to a shipping company? Better sentences on invoices? Nicer descriptions of a container's load?
Such people are better off getting a job out of high school, spend few years in the practical world and then decide if they are missing much from not having gone to college. Meanwhile, they can take evening courses in areas they think they like or have a calling for.
There is no such advice available to our youth because the banks, the banks, and the banks push the college degree requirement and councilors and advisors are shy to counter that push. The banks make so much from every loan, with government guarantees, and universities rip huge benefits, hiring adjunct, paying them less than minimum wages and charging us (through our government student loan guarantees, at least $500 per student) in those classes that cost them $1200 plus minimal overhead. It is an immoral industry, almost as bad a medicine and life insurance.
People should take off four years and work. Why should a college president get over half a million in salary unless it is a corrupt system.
In many European countries the students are advised based on realistic appraisals. They are told that the door is not closed if they work for a few years and then if they find out that they can indeed improve their lot, then they can pick up such skills in college as needed.
That is why we have so many economists that are dumber than doctors. They had never realized that the skills they need are much more sophisticated than they teach in colleges, like mathematics and ability to use excel.
Some of these young people, most of them, are quite smart, but are wasted by the greed of banks that push university degrees. Such fresh minds without the "stigma" or not having a college degree can be very helpful to small businesses. They burn out or are demoralized by going through college.
About the wages of women ... and the nurses making $120,000
written by Rachel, June 28, 2013 10:13

At least $120,000 was the salary made by nurses last year around Berkeley. Just around $100k in San Francisco. (I believe that around Boston and some other metropolitan areas,they're also profiting from "market power.") So more than a few nurses outearn the average scientist, male or female. Nurses are still about 90% female, about 2.4 million of them, the largest professional group.

I only mention this to suggest that most women are probably not immune to the growing inequality in this country. Some profit from the monopoly power in medical sector. Some have a very middling level of security from K-12 teaching.

(I was thinking that nurse-incomes might be a biassing factor before going to the Portor column. Then I clicked, and there is was, a big photo of a graduation, with "Future Nurse" written large on the mortar board in the center of the photo. But I did not notice any awareness that the excess profits of our health care system were contributing to growing inequality. Or excess profits in finance. Or the legal system.)
written by purple, June 28, 2013 8:43
There are other reasons to get educated and go to college than money and future earnings.

You'll get no where when it comes to promoting progressive ideas if you adopt the framework of neo-liberals, that is, all humans care about is money.
written by NWsteve, July 01, 2013 3:41
small nit-pick: k-12 Public School Teachers exceed 3mil...

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Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.