, Research Paper
The microeconomic picture of the U.S. has changed immensely since 1973, and the trends are proving to be consistently downward for the nation’s high school graduates and high school dropouts. “Of all the reasons given for the wage squeeze – international competition, technology, deregulation, the decline of unions and defense cuts – technology is probably the most critical. It has favored the educated and the skilled. Since 1973, wages adjusted for inflation have declined by about a quarter for high school dropouts, by a sixth for high school graduates, and by about 7% for those with some college education. Only the wages of college graduates are up.
Of the fastest growing technical jobs, software engineering tops the list. According to a report from the USNEWS, “Recruitment of its software engineering students is up this year by over 20%.” All engineering jobs are paying well, proving that highly skilled labor is what employers want! “There is clear evidence that the supply of workers in the [unskilled labor] categories already exceeds the demand for their services.
In view of these facts, I wonder if these trends are good or bad for society. “The danger of the information age is that while in the short run it may be cheaper to replace workers with technology, in the long run it is potentially self-destructive because there will not be enough purchasing power to grow the economy. My feeling is that the trend from unskilled labor to highly technical, skilled labor is a good one! But, political action must be taken to ensure that this societal evolution is beneficial to all of us. “Back in the 1970?s, a high school diploma could still be a ticket to the middle income bracket, a nice car in the driveway and a house in the suburbs. Today all it gets is a clunker parked on the street, and a dingy apartment in a low rent building.
However, in the 1970?s, the government provided children with a free education, allowing the vast majority of our population to earn a high school diploma. This means that anyone, regardless of family income, could be educated to a level that would allow him or her a comfortable place in the middle class. Even restrictions upon child labor hours kept children in school, since they are not allowed to work full time while under the age of 18. This government policy was conducive to the economic markets, and allowed the country to prosper from 1950 through 1970. Now, our own prosperity has moved us into a highly technical world that requires highly skilled labor. The natural answer to this problem is that the U.S. Government’s education policy must keep pace with the demands of the highly technical job market. If a middle class income of the 1970?s required a high school diploma, and the middle class income of 1990?s requires a college diploma, then it should be as easy for the children of the 90’s to get a college diploma, as it was for the children of the 70’s to get a high school diploma.
In conclusion, I feel that the advance of technology is a good trend for our society; however, it must be in conjunction with advance in education so that society is able to master and understand technology. We can be the masters of technology, and not let it be the masters of us.