I was thinking about human capital and growth, and the importance of having workers with advanced degrees to drive innovation forward. So I asked myself the question: What percentage of U.S. college graduates have an advanced degree? (Masters, professional, doctorate)
It turns out that 35% of college graduates have an advanced degree. (You didn’t know that, did you? I didn’t). That’s up from 32.7% in 1999 (these figures are for workers 25 and over).
That seems pretty good, doesn’t it? More and more of our college grads are getting advanced degrees, which is exactly what we would want to help foster innovation.
But then I asked a second question: What percentage of U.S. college grads have a doctoral degree? That is, what percentage of them have a research-oriented education? The answer was not so pleasant.
In fact, the share of college grads with a doctorate has fallen over the past decade. Not by much, for sure—but there’s no sense of a PhD being a desirable degree. Americans are not flocking to spend 4-6 years writing a dissertation and going on to research.
And why not? This chart, which shows the change in real pay since 1999 for higher ed graduates, may help explain the relative undesirability of the PhD.
Yowza! The real earnings for full-time workers with a doctoral degree has dropped by 10% since 1999.
That’s not what you would expect in an innovation-driven economy.