How Young Americans Get Better Jobs—Hint: You Don’t Just Get A Degree
You hear it all the time: If we want to improve upon today’s dismal job market, we need more education. Here at Campus Progress, we’ve written several times about how an expansion of educational attainment—though it would be great—wouldn’t wholly fix the structural problems that prevent people from getting good jobs.
A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research further bolsters this claim. In their paper, “Making Jobs Good,” John Schmitt and Janelle Jones ran statistical simulations on how to boost the quality of American jobs.
“Whenever we talk about inequality, the next thing that comes up is this conversation about ‘people aren’t going to college,’ ” Jones told Campus Progress.
That’s why the authors chose to look at how a large increase in college attainment would affect the number of good jobs in the market.
Schmitt and Jones defined a “good job" as one that provides health insurance, some sort of retirement plan, and at least $19 an hour in pay. Right now, 24.1 percent of American workers have jobs that meet the bar, according to the authors.
Along with college attainment, Schmitt and Jones also considered promoting unionization, universal health care, a universal retirement system to supplement Social Security, and gender pay equity.
The authors found that a 25 percent boost in college graduates (from 34.9 to 43.6 percent) would result in a 2.8 percent bump in the number of Americans with good jobs (from 24.1 to 26.9 percent).
Not bad, right? But also far from ideal.
A comparable increase in unionization would be even better, raising the proportion of good jobs to 30.8 percent.
The other policies also fare better than education. Universal health care would lift 4.8 percent of us into good jobs, and universal retirement plans would boost the figure by 9.6 percent. The two would be even stronger if combined, increasing the good job rate by 20.9 percentage points. Gender pay equity would bring 5.6 percent of female workers over the good job threshold.
According to the report, the boon from greater unionization is particularly noteworthy. Compared to the other changes, it’s very simple and very cheap.
“Increasing the number of people who have a four-year degree or more is incredibly expensive,” she said. “It also leaves out older workers who are not going to go back to school, but if your job was to unionize you’d be able to participate in that.”
Chris Lewis is a reporter at Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @chris_lewis_.