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解读美国高学历人才荒

(2007-04-25 18:25:30)
  

这真是个谜。尽管全社会都在大力加强学龄前教育、确保所有的孩子都能完成12年制义务教育、着力提高社区大学的办学质量、努力增加对在校大学生的资助力度,可美国为何还存在高学历工人短缺的问题呢?

这种短缺从如下事实就可得到印证:顾主付给大学本科毕业生(未接受过研究生教育)的工资通常要比付给高中毕业生的工资多75%。而25年前,前者的工资通常只比后者高40%。

顾主总是会尽量聘用那些受教育程度较高的熟练工。因此这一现象一定程度上是劳动力市场需求所致。但它也与劳动力的供给有关。高学历工人的增长速度赶不上劳动力市场的需求速度。

哈佛大学的劳动力经济学家劳伦斯"卡兹(Lawrence Katz)说,美国首次出现了一代受教育程度未显著高于其父辈的本土出生男子。虽然美国妇女的受教育程度确实要高于其母亲那一代人,但还不足以抵消男子受教育程度的不足。

20世纪初时,多数美国人只接受过8年教育。在接下来的20年中,随着电子和其他技术的发展增加了就业市场对高技能工人的需求,美国的高中从仅向少数人开放转变为了普及型教育机构。到上世纪20年代末时,一半以上的美国适龄青少年都能够升入高中。

卡兹说,如果大学教育能像高中教育那样普及开来,那么有一半的年青美国人会成为大学毕业生,而实际上只有30%至35%的美国年轻人能念完大学。卡兹目前正在与其同事克劳迪亚"戈尔丁(Claudia Goldin)合着一本有关教育、技术和工资史的书。以年龄在30岁的美国人为考察对象,1925年出生的人到这一年龄时平均接受过10.9年学校教育。1950年出生的婴儿潮时期人口到这一年龄时平均接受过13.2年的学校教育。目前这批30岁左右的人是1975年出生的,他们平均接受过13.9年的学校教育。这批人的受教育年头比其父辈略多,但当前高学历工人无论是质量还是数量方面的提高速度都赶不上以往,而要使当前的经济繁荣成果被广泛分享,高学历工人的增加速度还需加快。

其他国家却没有止步不前。哈佛大学的经济学家苏珊"戴纳斯基(Susan Dynarski)发现,1991年时年轻人口中的大学毕业生比例只有加拿大和芬兰比美国高。而经济合作与发展组织(OECD)的最新统计数据显示,有十几个国家的这一指标已达到或超过美国1991年时的水平,比利时、加拿大、爱尔兰、日本、韩国和瑞典这6个国家25至34岁年龄段人口中大学毕业生的比例已高于美国。

美国贫富差距加大并不能完全归因于高学历工人的短缺。这类高学历劳动力的缺乏无法圆满解释最富有的那1%美国人为何财富增加得如此迅速。它也无法解释为什么有些大学毕业生在就业市场的境遇要远远好于其他人。还需要指出的是,仅有本科学历工人的工资增幅近年来一直低于通货膨胀率,只有那些有研究生学历的就业者才享有高于通货膨胀率的工资增长率。

但高学历美国人的增长率为什么如此缓慢呢?婴儿潮时期以后美国人口出生率降低是原因之一。新出生人口的减少必然意味着新增就业人数的减少,即使高中毕业生的大学入学率提高,但大学生总数却不会显著提高。

另一个令人震惊的原因是,大约有五分之一的18岁美国人未能获得高中毕业证书。虽然具体数字会有些波动,但过去40年中美国的高中生辍学率一直大体维持在这一比例。哈佛大学的戈尔丁猜想,“人人都有第二次机会”这一美国教育体制的优点可能起了适得其反的效果。她说:“第二次机会对那些十几岁的孩子来说就意味着不必努力学习。他们可以把现在的事留到日后做。”但他们日后也没做。

还有:虽然有三分之二左右的高中毕业新生在秋季时走入了大学校门,但其中许多人甚至在完成两年专科教育前就辍学了。哈佛大学的戴纳斯基称,美国2000年的人口普查数据显示,22至34岁年龄段人口自报上过大学的人中有43%没有获得任何高等教育文凭;更有13%的人甚至1年大学也未念完。

尽管不断有人提出各种各样解决美国教育问题的办法,但没有一种能够有效解决上述问题。如果我们只是将更多孩子送入高质量的学前班,这不够。如果我们只是提高义务教育的质量,这不够。如果我们只是让更多十几岁的青少年完成高中教育,这不够。如果我们只是帮助更多社区大学的学生获得符合就业市场需要的技能或进而接受本科教育,这不够。如果我们只是提高对在校大学生的资助力度和质量,以便更多美国人能够完成四年本科教育,这不够。

只有这些全部做到才行。

It's a mystery. With all the energy devoted to expanding prekindergarten programs, leaving no K-12 child behind, improving community colleges and sweetening aid for college students, how can the U.S be short of educated workers?

The shortage is evident from this fact: Employers are paying the typical four-year college graduate [without graduate school] 75% more than they pay high-school grads. Twenty-five years ago, they were paying 40% more.

Employers insist on ever better-educated, skilled workers. So this is partly a story about demand. But it is also about supply. The stock of educated workers isn't increasing fast enough to keep up with rising demand.

'This is the first generation of American-born men who don't have substantially more education than their fathers' generation,' says Lawrence Katz, a Harvard University labor economist. American women do have more schooling than their mothers, but that's not sufficient to offset what's going on with men.

At the start of the 20th century, most Americans received only eight years of education. Over the next 20 years, as electricity and other technologies increased demand for skills, the American high school was transformed from an institution for the few to a school for the masses. By the end of the 1920s, more than half of all teenagers in the U.S. were going to high school.

'If we'd seen a college movement like the high-school movement, we'd expect half of young Americans to graduate from college. Instead, it's more like 30% or 35%,' says Mr. Katz, who is finishing a book with colleague Claudia Goldin on the history of education, technology and wages. BY AGE 30, Americans born in 1925 had 10.9 years of schooling on average. At the same age, Americans born in 1950, the baby boomers, had 13.2 years. Among today's 30-somethings, those born in 1975 have 13.9 years of schooling on average. That's up a bit, but the quality and quantity of educated workers isn't growing nearly as fast as it did in the past nor as fast as it needs to if the fruits of today's prosperity are to be widely shared.

Other countries aren't standing still. In 1991, observes Harvard economist Susan Dynarski, only Canada and Finland had a higher share of young people with college degrees. The latest Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data show more than a dozen countries have equaled or surpassed the benchmark achieved by the U.S. in 1991 -- and six have a higher share of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. [Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Japan, Korea and Sweden.]

The shortage of educated workers doesn't fully explain the widening of the gap between the U.S.'s economic winners and losers. Something else is going on, too. This dynamic doesn't reveal much about why the incomes of the top 1% are climbing so much. Nor does it explain why some college grads do so much better in the job market than others. And it's worth remembering that wages of the average worker with a four-year degree and no graduate work haven't kept up with inflation in recent years; on average, only those with graduate degrees have beat inflation.

BUT HOW COME the stock of educated Americans is growing so slowly? The birth dearth that followed the baby boom is one cause. Smaller cohorts mean fewer workers; even if a higher percentage of high school grads start college, the overall number is restrained by the demographics.

Another cause is the appalling fact that roughly one in five American 18-year-olds hasn't graduated from high school. With some ups and downs, that's been stubbornly true for the past four decades. Ms. Goldin, who leavens number-crunching with volunteer tutoring at a local high school, speculates that one virtue of the American education system -- there's always a second chance -- may be a vice. 'The second chance means teenagers aren't going to push themselves. They'll do it later,' she says. But they don't.

And there's this: About two-thirds of new high-school graduates are in college the following fall, but many drop out before completing even a two-year degree or a certificate. The 2000 U.S. Census shows that 43% of those between ages 22 and 34 who report any college attendance didn't get any degree; 13% didn't even finish a single year of college, Ms. Dynarski calculates.

Despite frequent assertions by advocates for one solution or another, there is no one sure cure for this. If only we got more kids into high-quality pre-K, it wouldn't be enough. If only we improved K-12 education, it wouldn't be enough. If only we got more teenagers to finish high school, it wouldn't be enough. If only we guided more community-college students to get marketable skills or to transfer to four-year schools, it wouldn't be enough. If only we made student aid better and easier to navigate so more Americans could finish four-year college degrees, it wouldn't be enough.

We have to do them all.

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