Job Polarization in the United States: A Widening Gap and Shrinking Middle
Over recent decades, the U.S. workforce has undergone a dramatic restructuring in response to changes in technology, trade, and consumption patterns. Some sectors, such as health care, have expanded, while others, such as manufacturing, have contracted. These changes have altered the composition of the workforce, leading to a phenomenon often referred to as “job polarization,” an important factor contributing to economic inequality in the nation. In this post, we show that the wage gap between high- and low-paid occupations has widened over the past three decades. Further, we show that ...
What Americans (Don’t) Know about Student Loan Collections
U.S. student debt has more than tripled since 2004, and at over $1 trillion is now substantially greater than both credit card and auto debt balances. There are substantial potential benefits to be gained from taking out a student loan to fund a college education, including higher earnings and lower unemployment rates for college grads. However, there are significant costs to having student debt: The loans frequently carry relatively high interest rates, delinquency is common and costly (involving potential late fees and collection fees), and the federal government has the power to garnish ...
The Value of a College Degree
Not so long ago, people rarely questioned the value of a college degree. A bachelor's degree was seen as a surefire ticket to a career-oriented, good-paying job. Today, however, many people are uncertain whether going to college is such a wise decision. It's easy to see why. Tuition costs have been rising considerably faster than inflation, student debt is mounting, wages for college graduates have been falling, and recent college graduates have been struggling to find good jobs. These trends might lead one to believe that college is no longer a good investment. But when you dig into the ...
College May Not Pay Off for Everyone
In our recent Current Issues article and blog post on the value of a college degree, we showed that the economic benefits of a bachelor’s degree still far outweigh the costs. However, this does not mean that college is a good investment for everyone. Our work, like the work of many others who come to a similar conclusion, is based in large part on the empirical observation that the average wages of college graduates are significantly higher than the average wages of those with only a high school diploma. However, not all college students come from Lake Wobegon, where “all of the children ...
The Class of 2015 Might Have a Little Better Luck Finding a Good Job
With the college graduation season well under way, a new crop of freshly minted graduates is entering the job market and many bright young minds are hoping to land a good first job. It?'s no wonder if they are approaching the job hunt with some trepidation. For a number of years now, recent college graduates have been struggling to find good jobs. However, the labor market for college graduates is improving. After declining for nearly two years, openings for jobs requiring a college degree have picked up since last summer. Not only has this increase in the demand for educated workers ...
When Women Out-Earn Men
We often hear that women earn “77 cents on the dollar” compared with men. However, the gender pay gap among recent college graduates is actually much smaller than this figure suggests. We estimate that among recent college graduates, women earn roughly 97 cents on the dollar compared with men who have the same college major and perform the same jobs. Moreover, what may be surprising is that at the start of their careers, women actually out-earn men by a substantial margin for a number of college majors. However, our analysis shows that as workers approach mid-career, the wage premium that ...
Searching for Higher Wages
Since the peak of the recession, the unemployment rate has fallen by almost 5 percentage points, and observers continue to focus on whether and when this decline will lead to robust wage growth. Typically, in the wake of such a decline, real wages grow since there is more competition for workers among potential employers. While this relationship has historically been quite informative, real wage growth more recently has not been commensurate with observed declines in the unemployment rate.
Migration in Puerto Rico: Is There a Brain Drain?
Given Puerto Rico’s long-term economic malaise and ongoing fiscal crisis, it is no wonder that out-migration of the Island’s residents has picked up. Over the past five years alone, migration has resulted in a net outflow of almost 300,000 people, a staggering loss. It would make matters worse, however, if Puerto Rico were losing an outsized share of its highest-paid workers. But we find that, if anything, Puerto Rico’s migrants are actually tilted somewhat toward the lower end of the skills and earnings spectrum. Still, such a large outflow of potentially productive workers and ...
Gender roles and medical progress
Maternal mortality was the second-leading cause of death for women in childbearing years up until the mid-1930s in the United States. For each death, twenty times as many mothers were estimated to suffer pregnancy-related conditions, often leading to severe and prolonged disablement. Poor maternal health made it particularly hard for mothers to engage in market work. Between 1930 and 1960, there was a remarkable reduction in maternal mortality and morbidity, thanks to medical advances. We argue that these medical advances, by enabling women to reconcile work and motherhood, were essential for ...
Getting ahead by spending more? Local community response to state merit aid programs
In more than half of U.S. states over the past two decades, the implementation of merit aid programs has dramatically reduced net tuition expenses for college-bound students who attend in-state colleges. Although the intention of these programs was to improve access to enrollment for high-achieving students, it is possible that they had unanticipated effects. We analyze whether state funding for higher education and K-12 education changed as a result of program implementation, and whether local school districts attempt to counter any such changes. We employ two methodologies to study whether ...