Almost Two-Thirds of People in the Labor Force Do Not Have a College Degree, and Their Job Prospects Are Dimming

construction worker
Photo Credit: R. Gino Santa Maria /

Stable, middle class jobs are on the decline for those without college degrees. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not helping.

Do AlterNet, 6 de abril, 2016

Almost two-thirds of people in the labor force (65.1 percent) do not have a college degree. In fact, people without a college degree (which includes those without a high school degree, with a high school degree, some college education, and an associates’ degrees) make up the majority of the labor force in every state but the District of Columbia. Mississippi has the highest share of non-college educated workers (75.7 percent) while Massachusetts and the District of Columbia have the lowest shares (51 percent and 33.7 percent, respectively).

It is no secret that wages for typical workers have stagnated over the past 35 years. The lagging recovery of construction and manufacturing sectors, two sectors which traditionally provide strong wages for workers without college degrees, is one reason for this wage stagnation. Trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership threaten to make the possibility of strong, middle-class jobs even more elusive for non-college educated workers.

We cannot solve the problem of low and stagnating wages for non-college educated workers by expecting everyone to pursue more education. We need solutions that will raise wages for all workers, regardless of educational attainment. These solutions include raising the minimum wage, strengthening collective bargaining rights, prioritizing very low rates of unemployment through monetary policy, and reducing our trade deficit by stopping destructive currency manipulation.

Robert E. Scott is Senior Economist and Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Research at the Economic Policy Institute. 

David Cooper is an Economic Analyst at the Economic Policy Institute.

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