Education and its Discontents: Overqualification in America, 1972-2002

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Title Education and its Discontents: Overqualification in America, 1972-2002
Publication Type Journal Article
Pub Year 2006
Authors Vaisey, S.
Journal Social Forces
Volume 85
Issue 2
Pagination 835 - 864
Date Published 2006
ISBN Number 00377732
Keywords achievement, ideology

The study of education-occupation mismatch, once central to the sociological investigation of the labor market, has been largely abandoned. While labor economists and scholars in other nations continue to investigate overqualification, it has been more than two decades since its last sociological assessment in the United States. Drawing on previous work and guided by Bourdieu's concept of habitus, I hypothesize that workers who have more educational attainments than needed for their jobs will be less satisfied with their jobs, be more politically liberal, and be less likely to endorse an effort-based achievement ideology. Using the 1972-2002 General Social Survey, l find that overqualification has increased substantially, that the expected effects are generally found, and that these effects remain relatively stable over time. I discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the persistence of existing stratification hierarchies.

Notes ideology"In fact, in the case of hard work ideology, the overeducation effect is actually increasing in strength. That is, overqualified workers are increasingly likely to disavow the "American Dream" of success through hard work alone."