A colleague sent me this interesting report / survey on connections between education, employment, and contentment and disappointment among recent college graduates: Voice of the Graduate, McKinsey & Co. , which relates a bit to issues of STEM education that I wrote about earlier.
The opening paragraph:
There’s a paradox facing American society today. The demonstrable economic benefit of investing in higher education has never been greater. Research in the United States shows an enduring positive impact on earnings directly associated with the level of postsecondary learning a person attains. And research from around the world shows a link between college education and levels of individual and national well-being more broadly. Yet at the same time, as the survey discussed in this report will show, this potential does not appear to be fully realized in the lived experience of many recent graduates.
This is all pretty obvious, but it’s nice to see documented.
In several areas, there’s a notable contrast between STEM graduates and graduates in other areas, especially liberal arts. For example:
The authors even note:
Liberal-arts and performing-arts graduates tend to be lower paid, deeper in debt, less happily employed, and slightly more likely to wish they’d done things differently. By contrast, those who majored in business management or science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields feel readier for the workplace and more satisfied overall.
So, does this provide additional motivation for improving STEM persistence? One could argue no, that increasing the number of STEM majors would just drag down the overall level of happiness among graduates, as the pool of people competing for jobs increases. Or one could argue yes, that the skills and training provided by STEM education are precisely what’s needed to prepare people for satisfying careers. Does STEM education make people happier, or do the people who will be happy in STEM fields pick STEM majors?
A friend points out that it seems like I’m adopting a Bhutanese approach to education, focusing on the post-collegiate analog of the Gross National Happiness. Perhaps not a bad thing!