Report: No, college grads are not working as baristas

Economists say almost 60% of graduates had degree-necessary jobs by their mid-20s

Most recent college graduates did not work as barista-level staff during or after the Great Recession, according to a report from two Federal Reserve Bank of New York economists.

Jaison Abel and Richard Deitz used Census Department data to examine the employment outcomes of bachelor's degree holders as the economic downturn took hold in 2008.

Underemployment rate for college graduates has fallen 40% since 2010

"Contrary to popular belief, most underemployed recent college graduates were not working in low-skilled service jobs following the Great Recession," they write.

And even those who began in low-level jobs worked their way to positions that do require a degree, they say. In graduates' early 20s, only 48% worked in degree-necessary jobs, but that share increased to 59% by the time the cohort hit their mid-20s.

Underemployment rates finally falling for recent college graduates

In addition, the report finds that

  • nearly 50% of recent grads worked in relatively well-paying jobs;
  • more than 10% worked in sales, management, or information processing and business support;
  • approximately 25% worked in office and administrative support; and
  • approximately 9% worked in low-skill service positions.

But even underemployed graduates had a better chance of earning more than their peers without degrees. About 40% of underemployed recent graduates fell into the four highest-paid jobs that did not require a college education, compared with just 18% of non-graduates (Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 1/12).

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