Malemployed nation: College graduates settling for less

The Takeaway

This story was originally covered by PRI’s The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.

Unemployment rates are much lower among the college educated than the general population. In a recession, however, compromises are made across the board. Dream jobs simply aren’t available for many recent graduates, and many are settling on jobs that don’t require college degrees. “Malemployment” is a word for what these people are going through that arose in the 1970s. Andrew Sum of Northeastern University is bringing it back, just as the situation becomes more common.

Malemployment is not a new phenomenon, and there is always an expectation that young people lacking experience will have to pay their dues. However, the situation seems to be getting worse. In 1980, about 30 percent of new college graduates were malemployed, while the current rate is estimated to be around 50 percent.

It’s tempting to assume that this rate will fall with unemployment, but these workers are not sure to be out of the woods even if they eventually get jobs in the industries they are trained for. A Yale study found that even after 17 years, malemployed people make 10 percent less than their peers when they first enter the workforce.

While some degrees might simply be less employable than others, many graduates have found that there isn’t room for them in the field they want to enter. The old cliché is that your restaurant wait-staff is holding out for their big break in acting or music. As of late, you may be just as likely to find that your server is an aspiring accountant or economist.

“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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