A recent report from the Georgetown University Center on Education has found that, for the first time, four-year college graduates are making up the majority of the new workforce over those who earn high school diplomas but do not go on to higher education.
Researchers found that of the 11.6 million jobs that were created after the recession, 11.5 million were given to people with varying levels of college education. Of that group, 8.5 million jobs went to workers who held a bachelor's degree or higher. Meanwhile, people with high school diplomas comprised 80,000 jobs during the recovery.
"The trend away from an economy that was anchored in high school to an economy anchored in post-secondary education and training has accelerated in the last two to three recessions," said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown Center and lead author of the report. "If you can afford to send your kids to college, this is good news. If not, it's bad news."
People with at least a bachelor's degree currently account for 36% of the workforce, the largest percentage to date. While workers with only a high school diploma make up 34% of the working population, those who have taken a number of college classes make up the remaining 30%.
The report states that during the recovery, graduate degree holders earned 3.8 million jobs, while bachelor's degree holders gained 4.6 million jobs and associate degree holders gained more than 3 million jobs. The report went on to find that 5.8 million high-skill jobs were given to those with at least a bachelor's degree, and low-skill positions was found to be the only area of growth for those who hold a high school diploma or less.
The recession caused a reduction in the number of blue-collar and clerical positions open, as these industries went from employing half of the workforce in 1947 to employing only 19% as of 2016. While manufacturing did add the highest number of jobs after the recession with 1.7 million, the industry still has 1 million fewer positions available than it did before the recession. The construction industry is in a similar position, having added 834,000 jobs after the recession, but still being 1.6 million jobs short of its pre-recession numbers, writes Danielle Douglas-Gabriel for The Washington Post.
The report went on to say that office and administration support positions lost 1.4 million jobs during the recession as a result of the introduction of digital information storage and automation. Carnevale added that it was this type of job that was most popular among people with limited education.
Meanwhile, those working in managerial and professional positions in the healthcare, financial, and education fields have seen the largest increase in the number of jobs available to them, as the industry went from 28% of the workforce in 1947 to 46% today. While consulting and business services added the most number of jobs with 2.5 million, healthcare professionals and technical occupations added another 1.5 million positions.
"Our higher education system is basically a $500 billion machine with no operating system from the point of view of the economy," Carnevale said. "There is more leaning toward employability as the ultimate standard for college in America, and that always means, in the end, the more affluent families get both education and training, while the less affluent just get training."