Educational qualifications are tightly correlated with earnings: an American with a professional degree can expect to pocket $3.6m over a lifetime; one with merely a high-school diploma can expect only $1.3m.
But is the past a reliable guide to the future? Or are we at the beginning of a new phase in the relationship between jobs and education? There are good reasons for thinking that old patterns are about to change—and that the current recession-driven downturn in the demand for Western graduates will morph into something structural.
the demand for educated labour is being reconfigured by technology
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Several economists, including Paul Krugman, have begun to argue that post-industrial societies will be characterised not by a relentless rise in demand for the educated but by a great “hollowing out”, as mid-level jobs are destroyed by smart machines and high-level job growth slows.
According to the Joint Council for Qualifications, which published the results on August 18th, some 27% of entries were given an A* or an A grade—the same as last year. This represents a welcome respite after decades of year-on-year improvement, during which time a sterile debate has raged over whether pupils were doing better at school, or whether the exams were getting easier