Is ‘Degree Inflation’ Driving Inequality in the US?

Is ‘Degree Inflation’ Driving Inequality in the US?

Most of the new jobs created in the US in the wake of the Great Recession have gone to workers with college degrees, and the wage premium Americans gain from holding a bachelor’s degree rather than just a high school diploma is higher than it has been in 40 years. Partly due to the higher number of college-educated candidates on the market, a bachelor’s degree has become a baseline requirement for most middle-class jobs. The decline of good jobs for less educated and lower-skilled workers is commonly understood to be a driver of inequality and social stratification in the US today.

A new report published on Tuesday by Harvard Business School, Accenture, and Grads of Life underlines the extent to which “degree inflation”—jobs for which a college degree was once optional and is now a requirement—is compounding this problem. According to the report, 6 million American jobs are at risk of degree inflation, as employers have “defaulted to using college degrees as a proxy for a candidate’s range and depth of skills.”

Axios’ Christopher Matthews discusses the report’s implications with one of its authors:

“This phenomenon is a major driver of income inequality,” Joe Fuller of Harvard Business School tells Axios. “We’re hollowing out middle-class jobs and driving everyone to the extremes of the income spectrum.” …

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