The whole 'working as a barista after college' thing is a myth

The notion that a terrible job market is forcing college grads to work as baristas is a myth.

In a blog post at The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Liberty Street Economics, authors Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz from the research and statistics group, took a long look at the topic of “underemployed” college grads in the wake of the financial crisis.

“The image of a newly minted college graduate working behind the counter of a hip coffee shop has become a hallmark of the plight of recent college graduates following the Great Recession,” the authors said.

“However, while there is some truth behind the popular image of the college-educated barista, this portrayal is really more myth than reality.”

The research focuses on those aged 22 to 27 with at least a bachelor’s degree, and is based on American Community Survey data from 2009 to 2013.

The blog post has a bunch of fascinating stats on employment post college and “college jobs”, or those where at least 50% of the workers in that position indicate that at least a bachelor’s degree is required.

Roughly 45% of recent college graduates worked in a “non-college job” between 2009 and 2013.

But these jobs were still primarily “knowledge and skill” roles, however as opposed to service jobs.

“Contrary to popular belief, most underemployed recent college graduates were not working in low-skilled service jobs following the Great Recession,” the post said.

“Indeed, nearly half were working in relatively high-paying jobs, with more than 10 per cent working in the information processing and business support, managers and supervisors, and sales categories.”

At the other end of the spectrum, almost one in five recent college grads were in low-skilled service work, a group which includes waiters, cashiers, bartenders, cooks and yes, baristas. A further 5.4% were in physical labour.

The researchers also found that recent graduates were in time able to better jobs. By age 26 or 27, only 6.6% of young graduates were in low-skilled service work, while the figure drops to 2.2% for physical labour.

“In the weak labour market that followed the Great Recession, the prevalence of underemployment among recent college graduates reached highs not seen since the early 1990s,” the post said.

“However, contrary to popular perception, our work reveals that most underemployed college graduates were not forced into low-skilled service jobs in the wake of the recession.”

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