Study Shows Most College Graduates Are Jobless Or Underemployed

April 24, 2012

College graduate filling out job applicationThere was a time when investing in higher education almost guaranteed a higher-skilled, better-paying job. According to new research, this may be changing.

According to The Atlantic, a new analysis from the Associated Press -- with the help of researchers at Northwestern University, Drexel University and the Economic Policy Institute -- reveals that more than half of recent college graduates are battling a difficult job market. Based on data provided by the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Labor, about 1.5 million, or about 54 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 were un- or under-employed last year, the highest rate in over a decade.

The news suggests that these young workers are not just struggling more than their predecessors, but are faring worse than even younger non-graduates. According to The Atlantic, by comparison, only a fifth of 16 to 19 year olds had trouble finding work in December 2011. Likewise, the older college-educated populace has an unemployment rate of just 4.2 percent.

The Atlantic notes that an oversaturation of college-educated workers in today's job market may be to blame, at least in part. According to the U.S. Census, the number of Americans under 25 years of age with at least a bachelor's degree has increased by nearly 40 percent since the year 2000, and not nearly enough jobs have been created to accommodate them.

This trend has forced many new workers to accept positions that do not make use of their education. In fact, according to the research, more recent graduates hold positions waiting tables than as engineers, chemists, physicists and mathematicians combined. According to CBS, this employment shift has minimized not just new graduates' job prospects, but their earnings, too: The median wages for this sect are down even from their 2000 average.

The forecast for recent graduates may be particularly bleak when one considers the cost of education. It is not uncommon for students to pay thousands of dollars for a four-year degree, leaving this generation of students among the most indebted in history. As a result, The Atlantic notes that in many industries, a specialized associate or technical degree may be more financially beneficial to many workers than a generalized bachelor's degree in the liberal arts.

But while new college graduates battle a difficult job market overall, some fare better than others. According to Culture Map, those living in southern states usually fare better than most, garnering a higher-than-average share of high skilled jobs than peers in other regions. Those pursuing higher demand fields, such as health care, also tend to do well.

Compiled by Aimee Hosler


"53% of Recent College Grads Are Jobless or Underemployed -- How?", April 23, 2012, Jordan Weissmann

"Analysis: Job Prospects Bleak For College Grads,", April 23, 2012

"Graduating from college? Don't expect a job -- 53 percent of grads under 25 are out of work,", April 23, 2012, Whitney Radley

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