In this economy, even having multiple degrees isn’t a guarantee against poverty.
The number of PhD recipients on food stamps and other forms of welfare more than tripled between 2007 and 2010 to 33,655, according to an Urban Institute analysis cited by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The number of master’s degree holders on food stamps and other forms of welfare nearly tripled during that same time period to 293,029, according to the same analysis.
The boost in PhD recipients receiving food stamps is just the latest indication of how Americans are struggling in a down economy. Overall, the number of Americans on food stamps rose 43 percent over the past three years to 46.3 million Americans as of February 2012, according to the Department of Agriculture.
In addition, even graduate degrees that many used to consider a guarantee to a life of wealth and success are going down in value. The sluggish economy has pushed graduates with law degrees to look for jobs outside of the legal profession, according to U.S. News and World Report.
The situation is particularly dire for faculty working outside the tenure track as cuts to funding for public colleges have squeezed their salaries. Many adjunct faculty members are likely to be on welfare, since they live on “poverty wages,” the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
Meanwhile, secure tenure-track jobs are disappearing as adjunct faculty positions become more the norm, according to several news sources. While more than half of all university faculty members were tenured or on the tenure track in 1975, that percentage has plunged to less than a third of all faculty members as of 2007, according to Department of Education data cited by the Chronicle of Higher Education in a separate report.
All of these factors, plus a less-than-stellar job market, have forced many PhDs to work in menial jobs. There are 5,057 janitors with PhDs, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited by the Houston Chronicle.
In another sign that a graduate degree is no guarantee of a secure job, some students that are just graduating from graduate school are having trouble getting job interviews, according to the Hartford Courant.