The Best Measure of the Value of a Degree (why we cannot hide behind the label “not college material”)

The best way to measure the benefits of education is not by counting jobs, but rather by measuring the earnings premium, or differences in earnings caused by differences in education. This measure also shows the advantages of education growing over time.

While the piece in Dealbook @the New York Times focuses on the legal industry, it stresses that these trends are not limited to law firms but what’s happening overall in industry:

Law firms have sharply upgraded the education level of their work force, increasing the number of workers with graduate degrees by 100,000 and those with bachelor’s degrees by 30,000. At the same time, jobs for those with one year of college or less have shrunk by 125,000.

These trends are not unique to legal services. They can be seen throughout the economy, where the share of jobs for highly educated workers and in skilled professions is growing faster than that of jobs for the less educated and less skilled.

To my mind, this structural change–across industries and reverberating throughout the economy–highlights why we cannot easily write off a large swath of the population with the label “not college material.”

Or think that we’re gonna throwback to early 20th c industrial America and create a bunch of jobs for this segment of our citizenry.

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