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Working as a Barista After College Is Not as Common as You Might Think

FRB of New York 2017.07.25
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The image of a newly minted college graduate working behind the counter of a hip coffee shop has become a hallmark of the plight of recent college graduates following the Great Recession. Recurring news stories about young college graduates stuck in low-skilled jobs make it easy to see why many college students may be worried about their futures. However, while there is some truth behind the popular image of the college-educated barista, this portrayal is really more myth than reality. Although many recent college graduates are “underemployed”―working in jobs that typically don’t require a degree―our research indicates that only a small fraction worked in a low-skilled service job in the years following the Great Recession. We find that underemployed recent college graduates held a wide range of jobs and, while most of these positions were clearly not equivalent to jobs that require a college education, some were actually fairly skilled and well paid. Further, our analysis suggests that many of those who started their careers in a low-skilled service job transitioned to a better job after gaining some experience in the labor market.

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