Prisoner’s Dilemmas-XXIII- Quiet Quitting

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By now, most of you are aware of the new workplace phenomenon known as Quiet Quitting. Forbes defines Quite Quitting as “..unsatisfied employees put forth the least amount of effort possible to keep their paychecks…”. Most employees might think they are clever for only doing the bare minimum, but managers have their strategy for handling underperforming employees; Dehiring. Instead of outright firing the troublesome employee, management directly acknowledges their dissatisfaction with the job role. The hope is that this might prompt them to find another job.

Dehiring has been described as a win-win scenario because it acknowledges the mutual frustration of the worker and the firm. Side-stepping the legal and psychological hurdles of navigating the labor laws governing terminating a subpar employee. However, what if either employee isn’t getting the hint? Managers tend to be ineffective due to poor communication skills, which could muddle the succinct message of “Please find a new job!”. If there is any breakdown in the messaging, both worker and their boss; will result in a Prisoner’s Dilemma. The ineffectual expression of shared frustration will make this process protracted and end in an actual firing.

The reward for Mutual Cooperation: R= .5

Either the employee or manager could hope; if they play hardball, the other will eventually fold. The manager ultimately hopes the employee will change their ways, it is always easier and cheaper to have a current employee change their attitude than find a new hire. Concurrently, worker wishes that rules will loosen up, higher pay, or lighter workload, banking on the fact that their boss “needs” them.

Both parties holding these zero-sum strategies are being obtuse; neither outcome is realistic. The best approach would be for each coalition in this game (company/management vs. unhappy worker) to directly and honestly express their concerns. Not only would this path be more efficient, but if the manager is faithful to the etiquette of dehiring, the problematic employee should have time to find a new job. 

·     Punishment for Defecting: P=0

It would be improbable to have a central authority that can definitively prove and punish either the manager or the worker for using passive-aggressive or unclear communication. Since this is a game-theoretical model, for the sake of simplicity, let us assign the punishment value at zero.

·     Temptation to Defect: T=1

As mentioned previously, it is tempting to adopt the longshot strategy; after all, either coalition gets all their preferred conditions met; with exerting the least effort possible. It is easy to view ambiguity as an excuse to hold out for a no-compromise solution. 

·     Sucker’s Payoff: S=-1

In a no-compromise strategy, it has win-take-all dynamics. The costs of buckling for either coalition are high. Arguably, the monetary costs are much higher for the firm, but the subjective evaluation of the worker’s disutility of conforming to their boss’s parameters would be difficult to measure. 

Condition 1:

· T>R>P>S

· 1> .5> 0 > -1

Condition 2:

· (T+S)/2<R

· (1+-1)/2 <.5

· (0)/2 <.5

· 0 < .5

Overall, it appears as if the Quiet Quitting controversy, sloppy communication combined with employees and employers giving into their desire to be lazy and have all their preferences met engenders a Prisoner’s Dilemma. 

Prisoner’s Dilemmas-XIX: Labor Negotiations & Strikes

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For now, President Biden was able to pump the breaks on the railroad strikes. Biden appointed arbitrators to negotiate mutually agreeable recommended revisions to the current labor contracts. This action kept “..115,000 rail workers on the job..” and narrowly side-stepped work stoppages from occurring on Monday (July 18th). In a time of preexisting supply-chain constraints, labor disputes would only exacerbate matters (the best real example would be the situation in the UK).

The dynamics of organized labor have a long history of being contentious, and striking is their secret weapon in gaining leverage at the collective bargaining table. If a policy does not contour to union interests, the relationship between the government and the labor movement devolves into a standoff. Since both factions have competing goals, this negotiation process is a Prisoner’s Dilemma. Lawmakers tailored policies to the preferences of the majority (union members only make up 13% of the US labor force). Also, in the anti-union camp, management possesses a fiduciary responsibility to enforce policies that are advantageous for the firm. 

These sets of incentives are opposed to the interests of the unions. Organized labor aims for higher wages, better benefits, more safety measures, and other generous forms of compensating differential. These new desired measures may be more costly for the firm or adversely impact consumers with higher prices or a lower grade of customer service (inefficiency). The demands of the labor unions tend to concentrate the benefits and impose costs on the rest of the economy. Even in sectors that are only tangentially connected to the industry where the workers are on the brink of striking. When their proposals are ignored or rules they dislike come into play, they defect by halting production and picketing. 

How neither party can reach a consensus generates Pareto-inefficient outcomes; should be self-evident. Because employers and policymakers might not want to cooperate or even meet the unions in the middle, they are defecting. In turn, the unions initiate strikes which create product scarcity, production bottlenecks, and higher prices. The ripple effects of the lack of agreement will hurt every economic actor in the market.

Degree Transfer Markets

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In most cases, college degrees act as a mechanism for credentialing; rather than necessary for obtaining occupational knowledge, why not establish degree transfer markets? Under our current institutional regimes, this suggestion may have some legal hurdles to clear, but this is nevertheless an intriguing proposal. Most degrees serve no other function than a sorting mechanism. Their utility in acquiring job skills is low. Coupled with the fact that ownership of credentials; implies that the individual holding this documentation has the right to transfer it to another person. It appears as if there may be some superficial veracity to this suggestion. The individual selling the rights to their degree would effectively be surrendering all rights and claims to it; they would not be able to list it on their resume. If a former student holding the degree is getting little use from it on the job market, they might be better off selling it to someone who would yield more benefit from the credentials. 

A hypothetical example of such a scenario would be, that Joe holds a bachelor’s degree in economics. Joe currently works as a customer service representative (a vocation that does not require a college degree). He is happy with his job; there is no advantage for him continuing to hold a degree in an unrelated field. Cindy is friends with Joe; she has a four-year degree in Sociology, but she has her eye on pursuing a graduate degree in economics. The degree may not necessarily be required depending upon the program Cindy is looking to enroll in, but it could give her an edge in the admissions process. Joe needed some extra cash and sold the rights and claims to his degree to Cindy for a mutually agreed upon price. Effectively, both Joe and Cindy are better at making the exchange. 

There are certainly some instances where the sales of credentials could be potentially problematic. Occupations requiring large amounts of prerequisite knowledge such as a doctor, buying your degree versus earning one can present some issues. Ideally, legally sanctioned occupational requirements would be eliminated, resulting in a stratified service market. Where the option of soliciting the services of uncredentialed service providers is feasible, consumers can still pay top dollar for the services of credentialed experts. In such a model, the ability to purchase your credentials could distort the value of paying more for a credentialed healthcare professional. This is a valid concern, although the market does punish businesses for providing a poor product or service. There is a potential for the market mechanism of consumer sovereignty to flesh out the truly unqualified professionals.  

Other considerations possess issues in a degree transfer market. Some people have likened a college degree to receipt, implying that the value of the degree comes from the knowledge and skills procured in the process of pursuing the degree. The facts are most college graduates are milking the signaling function of their diplomas. In effect, making the skills and information in college somewhat inconsequential, as most of their true learning occurs on the job. The lectures of a sociology professor may be engaging but bring little to the table in the realm of usable job skills. For most participants in the labor market, the receipt is what matters, not the skills or knowledge obtained from a college education. The old saying that was once a tired platitude has now become a guiding axiom of all beer-guzzling and frat house-dwelling students: “C’s get degrees”.It may be wise to adjust this informal rule to reflect current academic standards as “D’s get degrees”.

Beyond where a college degree derives its value from, there is a potential that selling degrees could further erode their purchasing power on the job market. It would not do so quantitively, compromising the value from a qualitative standpoint. Why? Because the one trusty sorting mechanism utilized by most corporate employers will be compromised. Hiring managers will dedicate much time and effort to determining whether the candidate earned or bought their education. 

Prisoner’s Dilemmas: XI – DACA and Labor Shortages

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DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivalsis a controversial immigration initiative from the Obama administration. Implemented in 2012, it extended deferred action (“…administrative relief from deportation..”) to undocumented immigrants that came into the United States as children, albeit the following criteria:

“…To be eligible for DACA, applicants must meet several eligibility requirements such as: have entered the United States before their 16th birthday, be currently in school, a high school graduate or be honorably discharged from the military, be under 31 years of age, and not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or otherwise pose a threat to national security….”

migration.org/glossary/daca

However, this Obama-era policy has proven to be quite contentious, especially considering the nativist proclivities of the Trump administration. This sentiment is reflected in the Southern District of Texas ruling in  State of Texas et al v. United States of America et al ruling DACA to be illegal. There are many arguments for restricting immigration, but it is possible that limiting immigration could produce problematic consequences? Adverse outcomes beyond the lofty ideals of multiculturalism? Currently, in the United States, there is a labor shortage, being dubbed the Great Resignation. More people are declining to participate or return to back to the workforce. Labor force participation was reflected as 61.9 percent as of December 2021.; when compared to December 2019, 63.3 percent.

The discrepancy in workforce participation between 2019 and 2021 may seem minor, but to see the severity of the effect, one only needs to view the lack of staffing at the local grocery store. Combined with global supply chain shortages it becomes apparent that commodities and entry-level labor are in short supply. Does the question become why further decrease the pool of potential workers through cracking down on immigration? Then arises the erroneous myth that immigration, specifically illegal immigration harms American workers. Most Americans polled even admit that immigrants assume job roles that most native-born citizens are unwilling to perform. It should note that deporting DACA-eligible workers would also exacerbate current worker shortages in higher-paid jobs considering nearly a quarter of DACA have attained a college degree (p.2).

If anything, considering the current economic conditions, restricting immigration/ deporting undocumented workers could result in a Prisoner’s Dilemma. A mutual defection between undocumented immigrants that entered the United States as children (DACA Dreamers) and the vigilant “immigration hawks”. By the very fact, the dreams refuse to go back to their country of “origin” this could be seen as an implicit defection against the immigration hawks who seek to deport all illegal immigrations and be strict about who is permitted to assume residency in the United States. Naturally, the incentives structures between the two groups are irreconcilable, the odds of a mutually acceptable compromise are slim-to-none; the immigration debate is a winner-take-all game. Compromise can be achieved in politics but is rendered untenable because of political polarization. Immigration has become a hotly contested wedge issue where making concessions are no longer fashionable. The immigration hawks do not realize that they are shooting themselves in the foot. When labor shortages impact establishments ranging from the drive-thru to the emergency room, it affects everyone. Regardless of their position on immigration, making it asinine to refuse willing labor participation the right to work.

Editorial Graveyard- Part II: Credential Debasement.- Published December 2021.

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Update: This essay was published as of December 2021.

Submitted to the Foundation for Economic Education

What is Inflation?

The concept of inflation (the depreciation of purchasing power of a specific currency) applies to other goods besides money. Inflation is related to the Law of Supply and Demand. As the supply of a commodity increases, the value decreases. Conversely, as the good becomes more scarce, the value of the commodity increases. This same concept is also applicable to tangible items such as vintage baseball cards and rare art. These are rare commodities that cannot be authentically replicated and command a high value on the market. On the other hand, mass-produced rookie cards and replications of Monet’s work are plentiful. Yield little value on the market.

Inflation and the opposite principle of deflation can also apply to intangible goods. When looking at the job market, this becomes quite evident. Jobs that require skills that are rare or exceptional tend to pay higher wages. There is a notable caveat to this observation, which is compensating differentials. Such a form of compensation accounts for the risky or unattractive nature of undesirable jobs. The higher wages are due to a lack of workers willing to accept the position rather than possessing skills that are in demand.

The Signaling Function of College Degrees.

Over the past couple of decades, credentialing of intangible employment value has become more prevalent. Credentials can range from college degrees to professional certifications. One of the most common forms of credentialing has become a 4-year college degree. This category of human capital documentation has evolved to take on an alternate function. Outside of a few notable exceptions, a bachelor’s degree serves a signaling function. George Mason economics professor, Bryan Caplan, argues that this function of a college degree is a signal to potential employers that a job applicant has desirable characteristics. Earning a college degree is more of a validation process than skill-building. Employers desire workers that are not only intelligent but also compliant and punctual. The premise of the signaling model is valid because many graduates are not using their degrees. In 2013, that only 27 % of graduates had a job related to their major.

Due to the signaling function of a bachelor’s degree over the year, there have substantial increases in the number of job seekers possessing a 4-year degree. Retention rates for 4-year institutions reached an all-time high of 81 percent in 2017. In 1900 only 27,410 students earned a bachelor’s degree. This number ballooned to 4.2 million by 1940. That number has increased to 99.5 million. These numbers demonstrate the sharp increase in the number of Americans earning college degrees. Today, nearly 40 % of all Americans hold a 4-year degree. Considering the vast increase in college attendance and completion, it fair to question if a college degree retains its “purchasing power” on the job market? Much of the evidence seems to suggest that it has not.

What is Credential Inflation?

The signaling function of college degrees may have distorted by the phenomenon known as credential inflation. Credential inflation is nothing more than “… an increase in the education credentials required for a job..”. Many jobs that previously required no more than a high school diploma now are only accepting applicants with bachelor’s degrees. This shift in credential preferences among employers has now made the 4-year degree the unofficial minimum standard for educational requirements. This fact is embodied in gov the high rates of underemployment among college graduates. Approximately 41% of all recent graduates are working jobs that do not require a college degree. It is shocking when you consider that 17 % of hotel clerks and 23.5 % of amusement park attendants hold 4-year degrees. None of these jobs have traditionally required a college degree. Due to a competitive job market where most applicants have degrees, many recent graduates have no means of distinguishing themselves from other potential employees. Many recent graduates have no other option but to accept low-paying jobs. 

The Two-Pronged Debasement.

The value of the college degree has decreased in value in two ways. First, its value has depreciated due to the vast increase in workers possessing degrees. This form of debasement mimics the effect of printing more money. Following the Law of Supply and Demand, the greater the quantity of a commodity, the lesser the value. The hordes of guidance counselors and parents urging kids to attend college certainly have helped this matter. However, public policy has served to amplify this issue. Various kinds of loan programsgovernment scholarships, and other programs incentivized more students to pursue college degrees. These policies that make college more accessible are what are devaluing college degrees. The current proposal for “free college” would be more expansive than our current policies. More people attending college makes degrees even more common and further depreciated.

The second form of credential debasement is a qualitative form of depreciation. Proving that the quality of a college education has decreased over the years is difficult to validate. Similar to how the Ancient Romans debased their currency by diluting the silver content of their coins, we have done the same to the college curriculum. College students are rarely studying but are attaining higher GPAs than previous generations. The average full-time student spends less than 30 hours a week focusing on coursework. Amounting to approximately 900 hours a year (average full-time worker devotes 1,800-2,000 annual to their job). Yet, the average GPA has climbed from 2.5 in 1940 to 3.1. A potential sign that college is not as academically rigorous as it once was.

Conclusion.

It is not to say that brilliant students with aspirations of a career in STEM fields should avoid college. For the average student, it may be a malinvestment in their future. Incurring large amounts of debt to work for minimum wage is not a wise decision. When faced with policies and social pressure that have made college the norm, the signaling function of a degree becomes distorted. If students focused more on obtaining skills than credentials, they might find a way to stand out in a job market flooded with degrees.

The Theory of Two-Pronged Credential Debasement

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The two-pronged theory of credential debasement seeks to explain why so many college graduates are underemployed. This is primarily due to two factors that make significantly reduce a bachelor’s degree on the job market. Not only there a quantitative debasement but also a qualitative debasement.

  • Quantitative Debasement: The vast increase in the number of workers who hold 4-year degrees has made this form of credentialing more common. This variant of human capital documentation no longer helps a potential job candidate stand out to employers. Dispelling the myth that a college degree is a “golden ticket” for a decent salary. Policies to subsidize or provide “free college” mimic the feature of money creation. Whether it be printing more money directly or circuitous forms of money creation through asset purchases. The result is the same, the artificial introduction of more money into the economy. These policies compel more people who would not otherwise attend college to do so. Making college degrees less marketable.
  • Qualitative Debasement: The basis for the argument of a qualitative debasement of college degrees is highly speculative. There does seem to be some connection between the duration of time spent studying and GPAs that present some notable patterns. It stands to reason if students are spending less time studying and are earning higher grades, that there must be a decline in the rigor of their course work. Paralleling the qualitative debasement of currency in ancient Rome. To stretch the coin supply the silver content of the coins was replaced with copper. Reducing the value of the coin by altering the intrinsic value of the coin by changing its physical constituents.

This two-layered assault on the value of college degrees provides some insight into why a sociology major is now working Wendy’s drive-thru window.

Credential Debasement

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What is Inflation?

The concept of inflation (the depreciation of purchasing power of a specific currency) can be applied to other goods besides money. Inflation is directly connected to the Law of Supply and Demand. As the supply of a commodity increases the intrinsic value decreases, as the good becomes more scarce the value of the good increases. This same concept is also applicable to tangible items such as vintage baseball cards and rare art. These are incredibly scarce commodities that cannot be authentically replicated therefore they command a high value on the market. On the other hand, mass-produced rookie cards and replications of Monet’s work are plentiful. Yield little value on the market.

If inflation and the opposite principle of deflation applies to money and other physical goods, could it also be applied to intangible goods? When looking at the labor market this becomes quite evident. Jobs that require skills that are rare or exceptional tend to pay higher wages. There is a notable caveat to this observation, that is compensating differentials. Which is a higher rate of compensation for a job that is risky or otherwise unattractive. The higher wages are due to a paucity of workers willing to accept the job, rather than possessing skills that are in demand.

The Signaling Function of College Degrees.

Over the past couple of decades, credentialing of intangible employment value has become more prevalent. Credentials can range from college degrees to professional certification. One of the the most common form of credentialing has become a 4-year college degree. This category of human capital documentation has evolved to take on an alternate function. Outside of a few notable exceptions, bachelor’s degrees no longer operate as a form of job training, but rather serve a signaling function. George Mason economics professor, Bryan Caplan, argues that this function of a college degree is a signal to potential employers that a job applicant has desirable characteristics. Meaning that obtaining a college degree is more of a validation process than about skill-building. An individual may be intelligent, but if they lack other complementary attributes such as conformity odds are they will not complete college. Dr. Caplan’s signaling model for higher education seems to be substantiated by the fact that the vast majority of college graduates are not using their degrees. It was estimated in 2013, that only 27 % of graduates had a job related to their major.

Due to the signaling function of a bachelor’s degree over the year, there have substantial increases in the number of job seekers possessing a 4-year degree. Retention rates for 4-year institutions reached an all-time high of 81 percent in 2017. In 1900 only 27,410 students earned a bachelor’s degree. This number ballooned to 4.2 million by 1940. That number has increased to 99.5 million. Demonstrating the vast proliferation of Americans with college degrees over the past century. Today, just shy of 40 % of all Americans hold a 4-year degree. Considering the vast increase in college attendance and completion, it fair to question if a college degree retains its “purchasing power” on the job market? Much of the evidence seems to suggest that it has not.

What is Credential Inflation?

The signaling function of college degrees may have distorted by the phenomenon known as credential inflation. Credential inflation is nothing more than “… an increase in the education credentials required for a job..”. Many jobs that previously required no more than a high school diploma now are only accepting applicants with bachelor’s degrees. This shift in credential preferences among employers has now made the 4-year degree the unofficial minimum standard for educational requirements. This fact is embodied in gov the high rates of underemployment among college graduates. It is estimated that 41% of all recent graduates are working jobs that do not require any amount of time in a college classroom. It is quite shocking when you consider that 17 % of hotel clerks and 23.5 % of amusement park attendants hold 4-year degrees. None of these jobs have traditionally required a college degree nor is it a prerequisite currently. Due to a competitive job market where most applicants have degrees, many recent graduates have no means of distinguishing themselves from other potential employees. Leaving them with no other option than to accept lower-paying jobs.

The Two-Pronged Debasement.

The value of the college degree has been debased in ways. First, its value has depreciated due to the vast increase in workers possessing degrees. This form of devaluation mimics the effect of introducing more money into the economy has on the value of a currency. Following the Law of Supply and Demand, the greater the quantity of a good the lesser the value. The hordes of guidance counselors and parents urging kids to attend college certainly have helped this matter. However, public policy has served to amplify this issue. Through various forms of loan programsgovernment scholarships, and other programs all have incentivized more students to pursue college degrees. These policies that make college more accessible are precisely what is devaluing college degrees. The current proposal for “free college” would be more expansive than our current policies. Encouraging more people to attend college making degrees even more common and further depreciated.

The second form of credential debasement is a qualitative form of depreciation. Proving that the quality of a college education has decreased over the years is more difficult to definitively validate. Similar to how the Ancient Romans debased their currency by diluting the silver content of their coins, we have done the same to the college curriculum. College students are rarely studying, but are attaining higher GPAs than previous generations. The average full-time student spends less than 30 hours a week focusing on course work. Amounting to approximately 900 hours a year (average full-time worker devotes 1,800-2,000 annual to their job). Yet, the average GPA has climbed from 2.5 in 1940 to 3.1. A potential sign that college is not as academically rigorous as it once was.

Conclusion.

This is not to say that brilliant students with aspirations of a career in STEM fields should avoid college. For the average student, it may be a malinvestment in their future. Incurring large amounts of debt to work for minimum wage is not a wise decision. When faced with policies and social pressure that have made college the norm, the signaling function of a degree becomes distorted. If students focused more on obtaining skills than credentials, they might find a way to stand out in a job market flooded with degrees.

College: The Opportunity Cost Not Worth Subsidizing

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Despite all of the arguments for attend college, earning a college degree is not without risks.  Not every degree holds the same amount of salability on the job market.  Clearly a degree in engineering will have more utility than a Bachelors in Gender Studies. The opportunity cost of the time spent in college needs to be considered. The student actively forgoes opportunity for hands-on job training when they elect to attend college. Mirroring the costs of an unpaid apprenticeship detailed by the near forgotten French Economist Richard Cantillon (1680-1734) in his seminal work An Essay on Economic Theory.

If his father has him taught a trade, he loses his assistance during the time of his apprenticeship and is obligated to clothe him and to pay the expenses of his apprenticeship for many years. The son is thus dependent on his father and his labor brings in no advantage for several years. The [working] life of man is estimated at only 10 or 12 years, and as several are lost in learning a trade, most of which in England require seven years of apprenticeship, a plowman would never be willing to have a trade taught to his son if the artisans did not earn more than the plowmen……. The professionals themselves do not make all their children learn their own trade: there would be too many of them for the needs of a city or a state and many would not find enough work. However, the work is naturally better paid than that of plowmen. (p.41-42).

While the dynamics are not identical to a student attending college in the 21st century, however, there are some striking parallels. Both practices are assumed to function as an investment in a young person’s human capital. A trade off forgoing income for the present, with the anticipation that this will yield higher potential wages in the future. However, based upon Cantillon’s depiction of 18th century of apprenticeships parents were more entuned to the practical results of their child’s job training. Due to the large costs of losing help on the farm parents were more  likely to consider their child’s aptitudes and the present concentration of skilled labors on the job market. The current “college for all” initiatives have left out an important piece of information out the factual argument for promotion greater college attendance, not all college degrees are equal. On average graduates holding a degree relating to the medical or STEM fields stand to make more money than those who majored in the humanities. This fact is frequently omitted in the onslaught of appeals encouraging young people to attend college. Creating the false impression that an engineering degree is on equal footing with a degree in sociology.

The pragmatic concern of  parents during the 18th century of an over saturated job market has disappeared. Witlessly parents are now pushing their kids to go college not for the sake of obtaining skills, but for acquiring credentials. Meaning that a college degree has turned into a signaling mechanism for employers. It’s an easy metric for qualifying potential candidates and effectively avoiding the  the legal complexities of  employment contingent intelligence testing (Griggs v. Duke Power Company). To a certain extent this signaling model for attaining college diplomas has backfired. As the number of people procuring 4-year degrees increases, invariably like another commodity its value depreciates on the market. Embodying the very essence of the most well know law in economics, the Law of supply and Demand. As the quantity of a good increase its market value  (quantified in money) decreases. The current glut of college educated participants in the workforce is exemplified by the statistics that 41 percent of all recent graduates are underemployed. Recent graduates that are underemployed are five times more likely to remain underemployed five years after graduation. The overall employment rate of college graduates has decreased from 1989 to 2019. Retention rates for 4-year institutions reached an all-time high of 81 percent in 2017. In 1900 only 27,410 students earned a bachelor’s degree. This number ballooned 4.2 million by  1940. That number has increased to 99.5 million. Demonstrating the vast proliferation of Americans with college degrees since the turn if the 20th century.  Considering nearly 40 percent of all Americans have a four-year degree does it still hold the same value on the job market? Clearly not. This is evident when observing the statistics relating to underemployment.

The decreasing value of a 4-year degree has distorted the signaling function of  a bachelor’s degree. This precipitous decline in value is the result of credential debasement. The depreciation of college degrees has resulted from a two-pronged debasement of these ubiquitous form of credentialing.  The first form of debasement that is afflicting college credentials is an increase in the quantity of degrees. Which is analogous to the introduction of more money into the economy through fiscal and semi-fiscal qualitative easing. Based upon the Law of Supply and Demand the greater the quantity of a commodity, the lesser the value. This debasement is exacerbated by federal subsidies for higher ed, government scholarships, and government loans. These policies eliminate the financial barriers for entering college, the result being more students obtaining degrees.  On the surface, this sounds like a good thing. However, with an increase in the number of Americans holding degrees the “purchasing power” of a bachelor’s degree is greatly diminished. Leaving many graduates with no choice but to take jobs that do not require a degree.  Even most positions in an office environment working in sales or customer service do not require any college (or shouldn’t). This phenomena is particular jarring when you consider that 29 % of flight attendants, 17 % of hotel clerks, and 23.5 % of amusement park attendants hold 4-year degrees.

While the first form of debasement is a quantitative debasement of college credentials, the second variety is a qualitative depreciation.  Paralleling the currency debasement practices in ancient Rome. Gradually the silver content in Roman coins was replaced by higher concentrations of copper significantly reducing the real value of the coins, while nominal value remained the same.  The qualitative debasement of academic standards is a metric that is difficult to empirical prove.  However, many experts who believe that higher ed has been “dumbed down” utilize a lot of correlative measures to defend this assertion. Some theorists have cited a decline in SAT reading scores have being indicative of falling standards for college admissions. This talking point is far from the most damning piece of evidence supporting the claim of a dip in academic rigor. Students on average spending 400-900 hours a year on course work. In contrast, a fulltime work devotes 1,8000-2,000 hours annual to their job.  Despite the paucity of time dedicate to their studies students are currently earning higher grades than their parents or grandparent ever did. Back in 1940 the average GPA of a college student was 2.5, now it hovers around 3.1. While it would be unwise to infer causation from correlation, it wouldn’t be foolish to at least notice pattern.

Beyond the hordes of misguided parents and High School guidance counselors  urging students to go to College there is another force pushing them in this direction, public policy.  In recent years, many politicians various forms of “free college” or “student loan forgiveness” as part of their policy platform. Even some Republicans have incorporated moderate compromises to the “free college” proposals. For example, Arizona governor Doug Ducey signed (AZ SB1453) a bill that allows community colleges to offer bachelor’s programs. This measure may seem minor, it helps further debase 4-year degrees. Allowing community colleges to provide bachelor’s degrees acts as a subsidy, by artificially lowering the cost of a 4-year degree. There is a substantial difference in the cost of tuition between junior and senior colleges. Such initiatives encourage more prospective students to attend college, pushing the 4-year degree closer to being the new defacto high school diploma.