When Americans aren’t fretting over being undereducated, we’re usually fretting about being overeducated. Every so often, writers and academics start sounding the alarm about a coming glut of college graduates who will end up doomed to a life of underemployment. And, when the economy is down, those warnings can seem pretty reasonable. That’s why the chart below, from a recent report by the OECD on jobs skills around the world, caught my eye. Though it doesn’t deal specifically with the college educated, it shows that about 19 percent of all Americans say they have more education than necessary to qualify for their job. That’s actually below average among the 22 countries listed. In Japan and the UK, the figure is around 30 percent. At the other end of the spectrum in Italy, it’s about 13 percent. So there really are lots of overeducated Americans — and English and Japanese and Australians and Estonians for that matter, too. Interestingly, the OECD report finds that based on their literacy scores, most people who claim to be overqualified for their jobs are probably well suited for them in terms of their raw skills. So it might just be that in any country with a functioning school system, some people’s credentials are going to outstrip their talents.
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