Commenter GP writes:
Great post. Further thoughts:
1. Signalling and the sheepskin effect. It would appear that the importance of college in the US is, to a large extent, the signal given by being admitted to a selective university, and the signal given by successfully completing four years of coursework. This might explain why Goldman Sachs would hire a Harvard anthropology major.
2. I believe I read (proof needed) that the proportion of college enrollments in “soft” fields has been consistently increasing over time. Signalling aside, your major matters for employability. Not to mention basic writing and communication skills, which I found severely lacking in students at a flagship public university in the US.
3. There is indeed evidence that when you enter the job market (boom or recession) can affect your lifetime income. Getting a Master’s degree to delay job market entry until after a recession might be a good move, unless everyone reasons the same way.
4. The discussion is often framed as “yes, college at any cost” vs. “no college is ever worthwhile.” This is absurd. Cost matters, and a simple tool like Net Present Value can help get a ballpark estimate of the value of a particular college degree.
5. Gates, Zuckerberg, Jobs… the media never discuss survivorship bias…
I agree with all points. I have seen many people with non-STEM degrees get jobs in investment banking or in management consulting–not necessarily because they were smarter than others, but because of where they went to college. Continue reading