Maintaining An Even Strain

A sociologist named Talcott Parsons once theorized that society will always aim for the status quo. While I personally, as well as other more distinguished scholars have blown his theory to bits, it’s also true that there has been no movement in the economy.

The same strains are there, the same data is there, and I’ve looked at the same data every way I could. Lots of people are still unemployed, policy is gridlocked in Washington, and while the Fed’s monetary policy is shifting slightly, they have been masters of the obvious in their analysis.

There is however, one piece of data that, while seemingly innocuous, is striking. The ratio of long term unemployed with Bachelor’s degrees (or high) keeps climbing. While certainly still low in comparison to everyone else (2.1%), it’s at the highest point in history:

fredgraph ratio

There’s a couple of problems with the data. For one, there is no distinction for type of degree. It would be helpful if we could distinguish between those who have a Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s degree, and a Ph.D. Canada makes this distinction in order to form all sorts of policies from student aid funding to immigration.

The second problem with the data is there is no distinction in age beyond 25 years old. How unemployed could a 25 year old with a crisp new Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree be, compared to a 45 year old? How can we identify, for example, age discrimination in the labor market when there is no distinction in age.

Either way, the increase of the long term unemployed with college degrees is worrisome and problematic. It certainly is indicative of the idea that the Bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma. With higher education creating higher income inequality through higher tuition and lower resources to pay for it, it begs the question of where the breaking point is in class consciousness.

Maintaining the even strain in the economy may indeed be one of Talcott Parson’s real lessons to think about.

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This entry was posted in Economics, Labor, Public Policy, Socioeconomics. Bookmark the permalink.

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