For The First Time, Four-Year College Grads Dominate US Workforce

A new study released Thursday by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce notes a major turning point: For the first time, four-year college grads make up the largest share of this country’s workforce.

“America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots” finds that 73 percent of the 11.6 million jobs gained since 2008 went to those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Georgetown University graphWorkers with a Bachelor’s degree or higher now make up a larger share of the workforce (36%) than workers with a high school diploma or less (34%). (Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of Current Population Survey (CPS) data, 2007, 2016).

Georgetown economist Anthony Carnevale says in today’s market economy, college is increasingly about finding a career.

“What you take in college will determine what you do after breakfast for the next 45 years after you graduate… so there’s an economic dimension to college that’s there now and much stronger than it ever was before,” Carnevale said.

Carnevale adds that this trend is surfacing in our national politics.

“People [without college degrees] are feeling left out and showing that in the current election. The Trump voters tend to be people who didn’t get the training they need to live in this new world, and then a lot of the Sanders supporters know they need college but can’t afford it,” Carnevale said.

Related: Black College Students Major In Fields That Offer Lower Economic Payoffs, Study Finds

Carnevale says the affordability issue is putting pressure on schools and policymakers to deliver skill-training aligned with the jobs that are available.

The report also found that workers with at least some postsecondary education now make up 65 percent of the total employment, with Bachelor’s degree holders now earning 57 percent of all wages.

Earlier: Despite Push To Get More Students Into College, Graduation Rates Remain Flat

[Cross-posted at On Campus: the WGBH New Higher Education Blog]

Kirk Carapezza

Kirk Carapezza is the lead reporter for On Campus. Kirk has reported for Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis., and Vermont Public Radio in Montpelier, Vt. He's been a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad.

Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway.