Mike Kueber's Blog

June 5, 2012

College-grad jobs

Filed under: Economics,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:55 am
Tags: , , ,

A recent article in the NY Times reported that many American cities are not prepared to thrive in the future because they don’t have an adequate supply of college graduates.   The problem with the article is that it never resolves the chicken vs. the egg issue – i.e., do cities like Dayton, Ohio have a dearth of college grads because their economy doesn’t create jobs that require a college degree, or does their economy not create jobs that require a college degree because there isn’t an adequate supply of college grads in the community?

Having gone to school in Austin, I am inclined to think that the problem is that the Akron economy doesn’t create enough college-grad jobs.  Every year, Austin turns out thousands of college graduates who have to move to Dallas or Houston to find colleg-grad jobs.  San Antonio has a similar problem.  The best creators of college-grad jobs are corporate headquarters, and Austin and San Antonio simply don’t have enough.  By contrast, Dallas and Houston are filled with them.

The other interesting point in the article is that, like income inequality, the inequality in percentages of college graduates in various cities is growing dramatically.  The article points out that currently only half of the metro areas have a percentage of college grads within 5% of the national average (32%).  By contrast, in 1970 nearly all metro areas had a percentage of college grads within 5% of the national average.  

We are becoming a country of haves and have nots, and that is not a good thing.  The problem is that we don’t know when and how to interfere with the free market.  The NY Times article reports that Dayton, Ohio has implemented programs (“Learn to Earn”) to increase its percentage of college grads.  Similarly, San Antonio is developing a plethora of programs under the banner “San Antonio 2020.”  Its educational objectives, however, focus on early education.  Perhaps local government will be “the laboratory for democracy” that develops some effective programs that reverse this troubling trend.  

I’m currently reading a new book by Charles Murray titled Coming Apart.  In the book, Murray argues that America is coming apart because the various classes of Americans no longer share core values.  The upper class consists of “mind workers” who process information and their value structure is fundamentally different than other Americans. 

Murray’s thesis sounds ominously analogous to the NY Times article’s concern that some cities are becoming are becoming a place for mind workers while other cities are being relegated to backwater status.  Murray points out that this development does not necessary portend an American decline as a world power.  In fact, it might make the American economy more efficient.  But it does portend the end of America as it was until the 60s:

  • But the American project was not about maximizing national wealth or international dominance.  The American project … consists of the continuing effort, begun with the founding, to demonstrate that human beings can be left free as individuals and family to live their lives as they se fit, coming together voluntarily to solve their joint problems.  The polity based on that idea led to a civic culture that was seen as exceptional by all the world.  That culture was so widely shared amoung Americans that it amounted to a civil religion.  To be an American was to be different from other nationalities, in ways that Americans treasured.  That culture is unraveling.  

Author Murray promises in his Prologue to discuss ways that America might change course, and I am hopeful that the solutions to divergent classes will also apply to divergent cities like Dayton, Ohio.



  1. in fredericksburg, there are many college graduates but few jobs that “fully employ” a college graduate.

    Comment by Q — June 5, 2012 @ 3:37 pm | Reply

    • Small towns, especially, don’t afford opportunity to hometown college grads. That’s why I’m envious of people whose extended families are in big towns like SA. College kids in small towns who are ambitious generally have to desert their extended family.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — June 6, 2012 @ 10:49 am | Reply

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