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Blacks Hurt by Increase in Irrelevant Degree Requirements for Jobs



(p. A15) Some 61% of employers have rejected applicants with the requisite skills and experience simply because they didn't have a college degree, according to a 2017 Harvard Business School study. If current trends continue, the authors found, "as many as 6.2 million workers could be affected by degree inflation--meaning their lack of a bachelor's degree could preclude them from qualifying for the same job with another employer."

The pernicious effects of degree inflation are obvious, as tuition and student debt rise and qualified workers arbitrarily lose employment opportunities. But the practice also flouts federal law.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In Griggs v. Duke Power (1971) the Supreme Court unanimously interpreted this to mean that when minority groups are disproportionately affected--or suffer a "disparate impact"--from the selection process, employers must show that any requirements are directly job-related and an accurate predictor of job performance.


. . .


. . . degree inflation has obvious disparate-impact implications. The Harvard report found that groups with college graduation rates below the national average are disproportionately harmed by the practice.


. . .


Employers also fail the Griggs test by demanding college degrees without evidence they are necessary for the job. In a 2014 survey, Burning Glass Technologies found that employers are increasingly requiring bachelor's degrees for positions whose current workers do not have one. For example, 65% of job postings for executive assistant and secretary positions call for a degree even though only 19% of people currently employed in such roles hold a degree.



For the full commentary, see:

Frederick M. Hess and Grant Addison. "Degree Inflation and Discrimination; Could civil-rights laws and 'disparate impact' protect job applicants who haven't finished college?" The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, April 3, 2018): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 2, 2018.)


The Harvard Business School study mentioned above, is:

Fuller, Joseph B., and Manjari Raman. "Dismissed by Degrees: How Degree Inflation Is Undermining U.S. Competitiveness and Hurting America's Middle Class." Accenture, Grads of Life, and Harvard Business School, Oct. 2017.






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