2011 January 31 Monday
Science Ph.D.s Have Low Unemployment Rates

Science, engineering, and health care doctorates have very low rates of unemployment.

Data released today by the National Science Foundation show the recent economic recession had less effect on doctoral degree holders in science, engineering and health (SEH) fields than it did on the general population.

According to a new NSF report, the unemployment rate in October 2008 for SEH doctorate recipients was 1.7 percent, whereas the unemployment rate for the total U.S. labor force was 6.6 percent.

One big advantage they have: When they can't get jobs using Ph.D.-level skills they can move down to take lower paying jobs and less prestigious jobs. Their IQs are high enough they can easily adapt. Take someone whose skills are so limited they can't do more than wash dishes or mop floors. Say they get laid off. They can't make trade-offs to accept a lousier job at lower pay if they already were at minimum wage working the night shift .

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2011 January 31 12:06 AM  Economics Labor

likewise said at January 31, 2011 1:39 PM:


no i don't said at January 31, 2011 2:02 PM:

C'mon Randy, you gotta admit that lately your posts are getting pretty boring. Constructively speaking; no offense.

Let's put some caffeine into the discussion. Bring the issues back. This is just too light; too Mr. Rogers.

Randall Parker said at January 31, 2011 11:49 PM:

So the lower IQ people are getting unemployed in large numbers. This is huge. The ramifications are very ugly.

I read recently that in 1965 95% of males 25-55 were employed. You know what the number is now? 80%. We are developing a large fraction of our population that does not work. Why? Probably not smart enough to compete in the labor market.

I do not connect all the dots in every post. But I am building up an argument for worrisome trends in the US labor market where the value of cognitive abilities as compared to raw brawn has become so much greater and the demand for muscle men so much less that we are going to develop a large idle parasite class far beyond what we had in the past.

Aki_Izayoi said at February 1, 2011 12:45 AM:

I don't know about the accuracy of the figures from the NSF survey, but I suppose they are exaggerated. It reminds me of how third tier toilets embellish the employment prospects of their graduates.

Nevertheless, despite all the complaints from grad school blogs (and Mish's website) about how grad students are unable to find work and the job market, it seems that most people project themselves as part of victimized and marginalized groups even when other groups suffer greater misfortunes. A PhD might not have a tenure track position at a prestigious university, but working as a post-doc is not bad, although some may complain that it consists of doing repetitive work while being a subordinate to a principle investigator, since it is not regarded as lower-class labor such as working at Wal-Mart or a fast food place.

Mike said at February 1, 2011 12:25 PM:

Randall, your basic point that high IQ people have a wider choice of jobs they can do is sound enough, and the range of jobs low skilled people can do is increasingly limited. However, It's possible that unemployment among high IQ middle class people is significantly underestimated.

High IQ people tend to be able to live with their relatives of friends for longer periods of time before they need to apply for welfare or get a job, and are better able to pass idle time by reading books and so on. Also high IQ people are more likely to do things like work on an organic farm for board and food, which low IQ people would consider a waste of time unless it came with free booze and drugs. Conversely, low IQ people are less likely to be able to live off their equally poor relatives, are more demanding to live with (hence friends and relatives are less likely to lend them money or provide acccommodation)and are more likely to waste their savings while unemployed.

Another thing is that low IQ people aren't necessarily less employable if they have a range of basic practical skills early in their lives. If you have a lowish IQ the best thing to do is acquire several different ocre practical skills, say truck driving, forklift driving/using computers in warehouses and plastering. In good times go for the one which pays the best and in a recession there should be at one you can still find a job in.

Daniel said at February 1, 2011 12:43 PM:

I'm in the headhunting business (software). Over the past 20 years a month doesn't go by that I don't receive scores of resumes from Ph.D's (largely Chinese, and not in computer science) for routine programming jobs. These are bright enough people who could have done this job without an American Ph.D, but without pursuing that Ph.D then wouldn't have been able to game U.S. immigration law and obtain a visa in the first place.

So, what am I saying? Too many Ph.Ds, too many immigrants. Let's cut back on both.

Mike said at February 2, 2011 1:11 AM:

Sorry, that last paragraph in my previous comment was loaded with typos so its meaning may not have been clear. Basically I was trying to say those with modest intelligence should be advised to acquire several different basic job skills soon after leaving school so they have a number of options for semi-skilled work later in life. At the moment lower IQ people tend to learn one skill, then rush out and get a job, and then when they get layed off, it's often a long time before they are able to find another job again or learn another skill.

Daniel, a similar problem seems to exist in Australia. Australia's skilled immigration system is based primarily on how well qualified an applicant is and not on whether there is a true skill shortage in their area of expertise, hence the system does little to reduce labour shortages and also encourages people to become over-qualified.

Check It Out said at February 4, 2011 2:36 PM:

Daniel, you wrote: -So, what am I saying? Too many Ph.Ds, too many immigrants. Let's cut back on both.-

Now ya takin'

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