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This post is the fourth in a series of four Liberty Street Economics posts examining the value of a college degree.
The promise of finding a good job upon graduation has always been an important consideration when weighing the value of a college degree. In our final post of this week’s blog series, we take a look at the job prospects of recent college graduates. While unemployment among recent graduates has continued to fall since 2011, underemployment has continued to climb—meaning that fewer graduates are finding jobs that make use of their degrees. Do these trends mean that there has been a decline in the demand for those with college degrees? Using data on online job postings, we show that after falling sharply during the Great Recession, the demand for college graduates rebounded during the early stages of the recovery, but has been flat for the past year and a half, suggesting that the demand for college graduates has leveled off. All in all, while finding a job has become easier for recent college graduates over the past few years, finding a good job has not, and doing so is likely to remain a challenge for some time to come.
This post is the third in a series of four Liberty Street Economics posts examining the value of a college degree.
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 are above average.” In this post, we show that a good number of college graduates earn wages that are not materially different from those of the typical worker with just a high school diploma. This suggests that, at least from an economic perspective, college may not pay off for a significant number of people.
This post is the second in a series of four Liberty Street Economics posts examining the value of a college degree.
In yesterday’s blog post and in our recent article in the New York Fed’s Current Issues series, we showed that the economic benefits of a bachelor’s degree still outweigh the costs, on average, even in today’s difficult labor market. Like others who assess the value of a bachelor’s degree, we base our estimates on the assumption that a student takes four years to finish the degree. But it is not uncommon for people to take longer than that. In fact, recent data indicate that among those who complete a bachelor’s degree within six years, only about two-thirds finish in four years or less. What does it cost to stay in college for a fifth or sixth year before finishing that degree? Perhaps more than you might think.
No one can accuse the Federal Reserve Bank of New York of not being a big supporter of central bank cooperation. Furthering that theme, I’m pleased to report that Emanuel Moench will join the staff of the Bundesbank after having launched his career here at the New York Fed. In February 2015, Emanuel will take on a new role as Head of Research at the Deutsche Bundesbank.
In her speech “Labor Market Dynamics and Monetary Policy” at the Kansas City Fed’s recent Jackson Hole symposium, Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen discussed economic puzzles challenging policymakers, including topics we’ve addressed on Liberty Street Economics. A central and much-debated question is: how tight is the current labor market? The unemployment rate is one key measure. But in February, a team of our bloggers proposed a finer tool to measure slack—one that distinguishes the effects of long- and short-duration unemployment on wage inflation.
This post is the first in a series of four Liberty Street Economics posts examining 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 data, is this really true? This week, we examine the value of a college degree in a four-part blog series. In this first post, we do the basic math and show that despite what appears to be a set of alarming trends, the value of a bachelor’s degree for the average graduate has held near its all-time high of about $300,000 for more than a decade.
We read with interest a new Brookings Institution report, Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon?, assessing the weight of the student debt burden. It was also pleasing to see the New York Times, several of our Twitter followers, and others citing work on this blog in counterpoint.
Basit Zafar, Zachary Bleemer, Meta Brown, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
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 wages of individuals with delinquent federally guaranteed student loans (in fact, reported federal recovery rates on defaulted direct student loans exceed70 percent). The ability of U.S. households to make well-informed decisions regarding higher education and student loan take-up for themselves (or members of their households) depends on the extent to which they accurately perceive the costs and benefits of such choices. To what extent does the American public understand the implications of student loan indebtedness? To shed light on this question, we went out and surveyed U.S. households.
This morning, the New York Fed released a new set of charts measuring various dimensions of the labor market. These charts are mostly generated from data available through the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program, and the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). This new monthly release will provide timely updates to help economists and the public understand national labor market conditions. The charts are split into eight distinct categories: unemployment, employment, hours, labor demand, job availability, job loss rate, wages, and mismatch.
Victoria Gregory, Christina Patterson, Ayşegül Şahin, and Giorgio Topa
Fluctuations in unemployment are mostly driven by fluctuations in the job-finding prospects of unemployed workers—except at the onset of recessions, according to various research papers (see, for example, Shimer [2005, 2012] and Elsby, Hobijn, and Sahin ). With job losses back to their pre-recession levels, the job-finding rate is arguably one of the most important indicators to watch. This rate—defined as the fraction of unemployed workers in a given month who find jobs in the consecutive month—provides a good measure of how easy it is to find jobs in the economy. The chart below presents the job-finding rate starting from 1990. Clearly, the job-finding rate is still substantially below its pre-recession levels, suggesting that it is still difficult for the unemployed to find work. In this post, we explore the underlying reasons behind the low job-finding rate.
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