2011 March 02 Wednesday
More Top College Grads Wasting Talent In Non-Profit Work

Yet another story about self-indulgent Ivy Leaguers turning to NGOs, non-profits, and other pursuits that do not raise living standards.

“It’s not uncommon for me to hear of over 100 applications for a nonprofit position, sometimes many more than that, and many more Ivy League college graduates applying than before,” said Diana Aviv, chief executive of Independent Sector, a trade group for nonprofits. “Some of these people haven’t been employed for a while and are happy to have something. But once they’re there, they’ve recalibrated and reoriented themselves toward public service.”

After $200k spent on an Ivy League education a job in a non-profit is going to leave many of those grads paying down their college loans in their 30s.

Teach for America is an especially notable waste of smart brains. Teaching for a cause will not make the sleepy, dumb, lazy, and drugged kids any more able and willing to learn.

Renewed interest in public service is visible across the country. Applications for AmeriCorps positions have nearly tripled to 258,829 in 2010 from 91,399 in 2008. The number of applicants for Teach for America climbed 32 percent last year, to a record 46,359. Organizations like Harvard’s Center for Public Interest Careers have been overwhelmed — and overjoyed — with the swelling demand from talented 20-somethings.

In my post Selfish People Take Lower Paying Jobs I argued that smarter people who take jobs with less potential for wealth generation are denying the world the benefit of their brains. If the smarter people turned their backs on dead-end non-profit work and pursued science, technology, and business the result would be more inventions, innovations, scientific discoveries, healthier environments, less habitat damage, and higher living standards,

The world faces a relative paucity of low-hanging fruit for discovery and innovation and therefore Western living standards have been stagnating. We can not afford for the smarter minds to waste themselves in non-profit work.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2011 March 02 09:21 PM  Economics Inequality

Michael L said at March 2, 2011 10:32 PM:

but fortunately Randall is here to save the day by pointing out lots of "Ivy League grads wanted for a more exciting and useful job" ads? Right? :-)

Recall Schumpeter's argument that advancement of socialism in Western nations is driven by the class interests of the over-educated, under-employed people. Well, each and every one of those NGO employees with a fancy degree is a good example of the same principle. They are not selfish or misguided, they are just unable to find a job in the current economy and current business culture - the culture that keeps salaries high, employment relatively low and values/hires people for their fancy resume and work experience rather than for intelligence and future potential.

Demolition Man said at March 2, 2011 11:31 PM:

One reason smart kids are doing non-profit work is because unemployment is affecting even their job search. This is also because of the foreign trade deficit.

Mercer said at March 3, 2011 9:15 AM:

"smarter people turned their backs on dead-end non-profit work and pursued science, technology, and business"

The smartest, most ambitious go to Wall Street because that is where pay is highest. Why should someone work in science or a technology business when Wall Street is more lucrative?

Dboy said at March 3, 2011 11:26 AM:

Maybe they are turning their backs on soul-sucking corporate jobs...just a thought.

Mthson said at March 3, 2011 12:27 PM:

The sentamentalists who go into non-profit work do it because they think the only work that's meaningful is work that's directly and immediately liberal. It's the same principle as the underlying cause of liberalism in general; they're genetically unable to understand economics.

joe said at March 3, 2011 1:28 PM:

I can guarantee you very few of these kids are Indian/Asian.

Aki_Izayoi said at March 3, 2011 10:48 PM:

Wow, the smarties are going Galt by working at non-profits and Wall Street, thus withdrawing their talents from productive activity.

Randall, if you are true libertarian, you should realize the according to libertarian ideology, the intelligent do not have an obligation to use their intellect to advance the long term prosperity of a nation -- they can freely use it only for their own benefit.

The NY Times articles implies that they go into non-profit jobs because the private sector does not offer attractive jobs. BTW, are non-profit jobs really that g-loaded, could people who graduate from lesser universities perform those tasks at the non-profits at similar proficiency? It's not like the non-profits are require their employees to conduct original research in particle physics. If so, then the non-profits are overvaluing general intelligence (and conscientiousness).

no i don't said at March 4, 2011 11:44 AM:

Maybe smart kids are fleeing from employers that consider themselves and act as slave owners. Many bosses nowadays are so demanding, to the point of thinking that a part of an employee's duty is loyalty; loyalty to the company and to him/her. And many dumb employees don't realize that the relationship between them and the company is that of a simple exchange.

no i don't said at March 4, 2011 11:45 AM:

Good comment by Dboy

GW said at March 5, 2011 4:23 PM:

More and more, I am convinced that years of college and grad school are not only bad personal choices, but they are bad for society as a whole.

On the personal side, here are 100 reasons NOT to go to grad school:


For the bigger picture, here are some depressing numbers from Richard Vedder:


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