22 April 2013

Degree Inflation

Fifteen per cent of taxi drivers in the US have a degree, up from 1 per cent in 1970. Likewise, 25 per cent of sales clerks are graduates, against 5 per cent in 1970. An astonishing 5 per cent of janitors now have a bachelor’s degree.
Via Marginal Revolution.

UPDATE: The more that I think about it, the more convinced I am that this statistic is more than trivial.  Instead, it has the potential to has consequences of epic proportions.

Societies and organizations in which talented people have their expectations defeated and are confined to positions of little authority, rather than being co-opted are deeply unstable.

The history of the American labor movement can be seen as a story of talenting management grade talent being shut out of management due to a lack of social class and education and finding other means to exert their influence until more meritocratic and need blind admissions processes were developed in higher education.

A great deal of radical Islamic activity can be fairly attributed to the huge class of educated (often in theology) but unemployed young people in Islamic petro-monarchies feeling a deep need to do something that makes a difference with their lives.

This also recalls that bad old days during World War I when aristoratic officers continued to send huge numbers of rank and file soldiers to their deaths irrationally climbing out of trenches to storm machine gun nests that was an acid bath to class relations in Europe for decades to come.

Of course, it also has to be bad for society to so profoundly underutilize the intellectual resources we as a society have available to us.  A mind is a terrible thing to waste.  And, if you waste it after that mind has gotten a degree, it is also a profoundly expensive form of waste for everyone who participated in paying for that degree. 

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