A four-year college degree is no guarantee of prosperity, reports the Wall Street Journal. College graduates’ wages “rose well above inflation” for decades but plateaued in 2001. Adjusting for inflation, a college-educated worker earns 1.7% below the 2001 level.
College-educated workers are more plentiful, more commoditized and more subject to the downsizings that used to be the purview of blue-collar workers only. What employers want from workers nowadays is more narrow, more abstract and less easily learned in college.
To be sure, the average American with a college diploma still earns about 75% more than a worker with a high-school diploma and is less likely to be unemployed. Yet while that so-called college premium is up from 40% in 1979, it is little changed from 2001, according to data compiled by Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington think tank.
A small subset of workers with financial skills are earning enormous salaries in finance and corporate law. But most college graduates are finding that a BA or even a BS is not a ticket on the gravy train.