Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Monday, November 30, 2015

MORE NERDY STUFF


I have on several occasions made reference to the fact that only 35% or so of Americans twenty -five and older have four year college degrees.   The discussion in the public space about the resentment of Republican base voters at what they [correctly] perceive as elitist condescension towards them focuses on the difference between elite colleges and universities -- the Ivy League, et al. -- and the rest of the two thousand four year colleges and universities in America, ignoring the fact that for two-thirds of adult Americans, Ball State or the satellite branches of the State University of Missouri are equally "elite."

But it occurred to me that the gap between the public discourse and reality is probably a good deal larger than that, so I did a little Googling to check, coming up with a useful link to the always reliable U. S. Census Bureau.

The percentage of the population twenty-five or older with college degrees has been rising steadily since I went to Harvard in 1950, at which time it was roughly five percent.  Now it is, I think, reasonable to assume that relatively few people get college degrees after the age of twenty -five.  There are some, of course, but when we are talking about percentages of a population of three hundred million and more, they do not much alter the overall statistics.  It follows that from the percentage of those twenty-five or older twenty years ago, we can infer the percentage forty-five or older today, and so forth.  [I trust this is obvious.]  What do we find when we consult the table?

Only 23.3% of Americans forty-five or older have college degrees -- not one in four.  More than three-fourths do not, and therefore are and always have been excluded from the very wide range of good jobs that require a college degree:  doctor, lawyer, professor, corporate executive, FBI agent, high school teacher, elementary school teacher, Walmart store manager, and so forth.  By the way, the figure for White Americans forty-five or older is 24.2%, less than a percentage point more.

I think these few statistics, all by themselves, tell us a good deal about the reasons for the deep anger and resentment of so large a portion of the Republican base.

1 comment:

Jim Westrich said...

I think my response is going to be way more nerdy than you would like but here goes.

While I think as "a back of an envelope calculation" using educational attainment rates twenty years ago for those 25+ as a proxy for current educational attainment of 45+ I bristled when I read that. So, I used the CPS ASEC (March 2015) survey (this is the same data source as your linked data above) and looked at the educational attainment of those 45+ directly. The number is 30.1% so I think it is very different than the 23% of your approximation. This number is in line with other published numbers in recent years.

While there are several factors that could make your method less accurate (net in-migration of college educated, lower mortality of college educated, etc.) the main issue is that there is a significant number of people completing degrees after 25. I am not immediately finding great data on this but this Gallup article gets at it somewhat: http://www.gallup.com/poll/179783/graduating-college-later-life-doesn-hamper-income.aspx

I do not mean to quibble with the general point but college education is increasingly happening later in life and in "non-traditional" ways.