What is also known, but seldom acknowledged, is another indicator of the severity of a recession is the number of people with education, with skills and with a great deal to offer have trouble finding jobs. According to this indicator, things are bad, very bad, for even the brightest of Americans — the ones earning advanced degrees.
According to a recent Huffington Post article, citing figures from The Chronicle of Higher Education, the number of Ph.D. recipients on food stamps more than tripled between 2007 and 2010 — the most severe recession years. It was just as bad for Americans holding master’s degrees. In what is surely a dramatic change from how things were, or at least how they were perceived to be, the Huffington Post observed that “in this economy, even having multiple degrees isn’t a guarantee against poverty.”
One could suggest that this situation is the result of an oversupply of doctorates in the liberal arts, fields that do not adapt well to market demands outside academia. There is some truth to this. Because of state budget cuts, colleges and universities are employing more adjunct teachers and paying them so little that they have to turn to public assistance to make ends meet. Many of these adjuncts hold master’s degrees and Ph.D.s, but have little chance of ever getting a full-time, tenure-track teaching position. So they labor away, surviving on food stamps and hope.
On the other hand, those taking degrees in law, degrees that were once considered the way to enter the legal or business fields, are also finding jobs hard to come by.
And of course there are the stories of people with advanced degrees driving taxis or working as janitors.
What is particularly tragic about this category of unemployed and under-employed is that America is losing what these people possess — not just the knowledge, but the dedication and determination that got them the degrees they hold. While many may have followed their dreams rather than calculated the market value of their education, there is no doubt that they are smart, driven, dependable and hard working — you must be all that to get an advanced degree in any field.
When considering what this recession has cost our country, we must also consider the loss of brain-power, the loss of intellect and ability that is occurring.
In working for recovery, federal, state and local agencies, business large and small, must take notice of this pool of able men and women and bring them back into the ranks of the employed.