Two Americas in Recovery

First Matt Yglesias and then Kevin Drum nail the current source of my occasional spasms of liberal guilt, namely the unequal distribution of the current economic troubles. They both note that the unemployment rate for college graduates is less than half that for folks without college degrees (Matt looks at total unemployment, Kevin at long-term unemployment), and Matt notes:

Virtually every single member of congress, every senator, every Capitol Hill staffer, every White House advisor, every Fed governor, and every major political reporter is a college graduate. What’s more, we have a large amount of social segregation in the United States–college graduates tend to socialize with each other. And among college graduates, there simply isn’t an economic crisis in the United States.

This is very true. While I’m aware that the global economic situation isn’t good, locally, we’re doing all right. Kate and I both have good jobs with good job security, we’ve got health insurance, and we’re not looking to retire any time soon, so the dismal performance of my retirement accounts isn’t an immediate cause for concern. And nearly everyone I talk to regularly is in more or less the same position. Even if you restrict the sample set to academics, we’re doing better than a lot of people, as Union is private and has a large enough endowment to smooth out the shock a bit.

Of course, there really isn’t anything I can do about it, other than feel vaguely guilty when the subject of the economy comes up, and try to do our bit to put money into the local economy. But it’s a much bigger issue than that, and ought to get more attention than it does.

Comments

  1. #1 Neil B
    August 11, 2010

    Well, I don’t agree that there’s not much problem for those with college degrees (whether recent grads, or old goats like me.) Many of the people with mixed or liberal arts backgrounds can’t get good jobs, and isn’t it still hard for physics grads? I don’t think it’s good for anyone except certain service professions like doctors, lawyers, etc.

    As for income disparity: one policy driving that is tax policy. The lower rate for capital gains is a fraud, since most such income is from speculative trading rather than effectual startup capital. The CG rate should be the same (with CPI indexing) and maybe a break only for startup capital investment. Also, we need to tax financial transactions and get the cap lifted from FICA income. The so-called “Fair Tax” is just the opposite, taxing consumption of actual goods and leaving financial wheeling and dealing alone. It’s a trick, just like the overall tax policy inherited from Republicans and compromised Democrats.

    BTW folks, don’t let the Republican tealiban take over in Nov! I wish the best for Chad’s brother John. Even though State Senate (NY), electing more Democrats helps hold off the barbarians IMHO.

  2. #2 Eric Lund
    August 11, 2010

    I think the split is more along these lines: Those who still have their jobs are in good shape. Many of those who lost their jobs (or recent graduates looking for an entry-level position) are SOL. Most of the people in the first group are college graduates. But many in the second group are college graduates, too, and they (especially the recent grads) often have oodles of student loan debt (which is not dischargeable in bankruptcy) to pay off.

    Neil @1: Even the lawyers are having problems, I hear. Things are OK for students at top-tier schools (Ivy League and a few others), but graduating law students from programs further down the food chain are having trouble getting positions.

  3. #3 Uh
    August 11, 2010

    Well, Neil B hit all the talking points. Talking points about an almost entirely different topic (Fair Tax??), but hit ‘em he did.

  4. #4 flea
    August 11, 2010

    Having children in public schools in a mixed-income city does help in the avoidance of the “still prosperous” bubble.

    The people I know well who are struggling right now are laid-off people over 50 – mostly very well-educated and experienced – and new college grads.

  5. #5 Neil B
    August 11, 2010

    Uh – since the topic was about the different fortunes of college grads v. non, I thought it topical to segue into the general issue of “two Americas” and the income disparity (which is also aligned along having a college degree.) The disparity in income between grads and non, has increased over the decades. But so has the share held by the very top 1-5 percent, which is of course a subset of college grads and includes some who aren’t (more than you’d think.) Changes in tax policy won’t much directly affect your likelihood of getting hired or what salary, but do tend to steer money up and down the ladder.

  6. #6 Neil B
    August 12, 2010

    Correction: John Orzel is Chad’s uncle.

  7. #7 Loki
    August 12, 2010

    Nursing shortage: Check

    Hospitals hiring new grads: Good luck. Odds are you will have to change states, if you even get accepted. And many of the jobs for new grads are in the midwest (fuck that.)

    its pretty shitty right now for college grads.

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