Education and the recession, continued

August 17, 2012

Yesterday I highlighted a report by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce that noted that the recession hit the majority of Americans who haven't finished college much harder than those who have. But the report has one big flaw: it doesn't separate out people who only have a bachelor's degree from the 11.3 percent of workers who have an advanced degree beyond a bachelor's.

Luckily, data from the forthcoming Economic Policy Institute book "The State of Working America, 12th Edition," which EPI generously provided to Wonkblog, does separate the groups, and the results are informative. While those with only a BA did much, much better than people with a high school degree or only some college, they still saw job stagnation during the recession. The only group that continued to gain jobs were those with advanced degrees:

Fully 98.3 percent of job gains among those with at least a bachelor's were realized by those with advanced degrees - again, a small fraction of the overall population. What's more, because more and more people are going to graduate school, the number of unemployed people with advanced degrees grew even as the number of employed people with advanced degrees did. The unemployment rate increased by roughly the same amount for each subgroup, though obviously the unemployment rate for people with advanced degrees is still tiny by contrast to other groups:

The central point of the Georgetown report, that the recession was much milder for people with bachelor's and advanced degrees, is correct, but it's correct because the economy always treats people with higher educational attainment better.

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Sarah Kliff | August 17, 2012