Another unemployed (on food stamps) PhD article.

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Koolcypher, May 10, 2012.

  1. Koolcypher

    Koolcypher Member

  2. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

  3. Koolcypher

    Koolcypher Member

    I don't think so, at least the article does not mention it. What I don't understand is why these people pursue such degrees, knowing that the marketability for such degrees is, at the moment, and in the foreseeable future, extremely limited. Don't get me wrong, I would love to earn a PhD in Mediaeval History or any discipline in the humanities, however, it would be for pure satisfaction only, and without going into debt as well.

    I love the humanities, however, most people know that a humanities degree does not pay well, unless you have a trust fund, then by all means have at it. As a result I do not feel sorry for these people, by all accounts these are highly educated individuals, however, none of them did a simple research to find out what the humanities pay.:thinking:

    Hell, way back in 2002 I wanted to earn a history degree, I started researching about it, and I was able to see the writing on the wall. I basically came to the simple conclusion humanities degree = fun, humanities = poor, starvation and welfare.:crying:
  4. DxD=D^2

    DxD=D^2 Member

    I have noticed that the majority of these stories end up following a cycle. These graduates of Ph D's grew up with food stamps or other aid. Now as they graduate, it's as if the cycle haunts them to go back on it. I wonder if there can be a correlation between, growing up on food stamps as a child, and after finishing up college to go back on food stamps because of student loan debt? I'm not sure, but from these stories, this is once thing that is mentioned in the articles I have read.

    "As a kid, his family supplemented their income with food stamps. Decades later, he found himself in the same position, applying for welfare to get by when his doctoral degree wasn't enough to bring home a steady paycheck."
  5. iheartlearning

    iheartlearning New Member

    I would suggest that once one figures out how to break the cycle of poverty, they are likely not to return to that cycle unless quite desperate. Most people put in the focused, long-term energy needed to escape poverty not because they hold poverty as some glamorous phase of their lives that they are ambivalent about escaping or that they wouldn't mind returning to. I know some say "old habits die hard" but I think in this case, most folks who work hard to break the "poverty habit" (if you will allow me to use a loose, imperfect term here) aren't jonesing for another fix of said habit.

    A few (albeit old) reports tend to suggest that those with more education are less likely to rely on social welfare programs in the long-term. Here are some snippets from said reports:

    - "But even researchers say they were surprised to find how strongly teen-age pregnancy, educational achievement and the ability to get off welfare were linked in their study of 2,000 low-income families... Even in the state's booming economy, those without education can't get the kind of jobs that will keep them off welfare for good. Fewer than 5 percent of those without a high-school diploma were able to get off welfare and stay off for at least a year, the study found. 'There is a connection between the labor market and getting off welfare, but it's limited by education. Education is the strategic variable in all this.'" From Business | Welfare Study Outlines Factors Behind `Persistence Of Poverty | Seattle Times Newspaper

    - "Research shows that 85 percent of women on welfare who go to college and graduate get off and stay off welfare." From Welfare Special Report
  6. iheartlearning

    iheartlearning New Member

    I think some folks who commented on a similar article at the Chronicle (From Graduate School to Welfare - Graduate Students - The Chronicle of Higher Education) had the best responses to comments similar to the one above, so I'll just borrow from them:

    - "...There are always going to be people that study 'soft sciences' as you would call them. it's not any less worthwhile, just hard to predict when higher education is going to be defunded, and the job you were aiming for would be cut. it doesn't help to vilify them for going after the 'wrong' field." - olivef

    - "Imagine that, a society in which there is no one who understands the language of any other country--will have to outsource all those UN interpreters (and if your company does business in China? Tough! None of your STEM graduates have learned Mandarin, much less Cantonese). Imagine a society in which no one knows history. Oh wait, Orwell already did that. He called the book 1984. Imagine a society in which there are no trained journalists (increasingly the future we are already facing), in which no one has learned to read critically and write clearly and persuasively (rather like many offices now, though there are still a few who can cover for the incompetence of the whole), in which no one knows anything about human psychology (so much for Marketing departments in our major corporations), in which no one knows anything of art or politics or human cultures at the macro, much less the micro level. Oh too much of the American population today." - michaelbryson

    All that said, I certainly hope this gentleman pursued his love of history in spite of knowing he'd be facing a tough economy. I hope he made an informed decision and decided the risk was worth it. I am glad he had hope that the economy would turn around and that he would find a job and that he would be OK no matter what, even though not all of that has, so far, turned out to be true. Because, ya know, "You've gotta have hope. Without hope life is meaningless. Without hope life is meaning less and less," (Author Unknown).
  7. iheartlearning

    iheartlearning New Member

    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2012
  8. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    Well, they're fed on all these dreams about do what you love and the money will follow and they somehow believe they will be the ones who will get one of the very few tenure track positions in history because they're special.
  9. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Technically, the marketability ofa PhD degree in English or History is not extremely limited. Schools at all levels, from community colleges to top research universities, in all parts of the country, have "Help Wanted" signs out for adjunct professors, including humanities instructors. You will notice that all of the people interviewed for the news story are, in fact, gainfully employed.

    So you can find a job with a humanities PhD. The problem is that most of the available jobs pay really badly -- so badly that welfare and food stamps become part of the picture. And that fact is not always obvious to students. Neither the universities nor the adjuncts themselves have any incentive to tell students that the pay stinks and that the benefits are nonexistent.

    I've talked to B&M college graduates who are considering graduate school so they can get adjunct work. Many of them react with stunned disbelief when I tell them how poorly adjuncts are compensated. These people tend to have great respect for education in general and for their professors in particular. They regarded their college professors as knowledgeable, high-status role models, like doctors or lawyers. They never would have guessed that their trusted, respected, PhD-holding authority figures were getting paid like fast-food workers. The idea that a professor teaching at Flagship State University or Prestigious Ivy University might be collecting food stamps would literally never cross their minds.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2012
  10. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    You would love to get a PhD in Mediaeval History? Interesting. Back when I was a young and idealistic 22 year old with a brand shiny new BA in History and thought that I was one of the special ones who would merrily dance along my way to an MA in History by age 25 and a PhD in History by age 29 and land a tenure track position straight out of said PhD, my greatest love of the field was for Mediaeval History. My thesis and dissertation, had I been successful, were going to be on the Black Death and the economic and demographic decline of fourteenth century Europe.
  11. iheartlearning

    iheartlearning New Member

    Oh pretty please approve my earlier posts in this thread, Oh Wise and Venerable Moderators.
  12. Koolcypher

    Koolcypher Member

    :hail:I bow to you master. :smokin::hail: I've always had a great interest in the Black Death, along with migration patterns across Europe during this this time as well.
  13. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    It's one more indicator of a broken system. If you've gone through all of that schooling and made it into a spot of being a collegiate instructor, considering what kind of money some of these schools pull in, it's absurd that somehow these educators can't be paid well enough to survive financially from that position alone. It's a certain feeling of false advertising from the system's structure; here you have this educator who has worked his/her way into this position, telling students to strive for success, yet the educator him/herself is not experiencing the fruits of success from his/her own work, smh.
  14. iheartlearning

    iheartlearning New Member


    It isn't [just] that person X made a "stupid" decision by selecting a particular field of study that isn't valued (through the exchange of expertise for a consistent or even living wage) in this economy. The problem also lies in the fact that university advisors fail to advise students on the realities of the job market and to paint a realistic picture of what a neophyte academic can realistically do with the finished product (their degree). Advisors should certainly not push everyone to study business or information security, but they can at least point to labor statistics and say, "Listen, job growth in your field is flat or declining so if you are OK with temping at a day gig so that you can eat and pay the bills, and then teaching history classes at night, then you're in good shape with your path toward Medieval History PhD land." To not provide such insight into what the finished product/degree will do for you is, to my mind, false advertising.

    And, quite frankly, a system wherein only STEM-related, or finance, or medical careers and fields are valued is a lopsided system indeed. Not to mention, one in which the unintended consequences of that continued imbalance are sure to be dire <cue suspense music here>. It's almost like we want life to imitate the art of the movie "Idiocracy", but where everyone is a narrowly-focused savant in disparate yet narrow subjects and without the ability to communicate intelligently with one another. Ok, I took it to an absurd extreme but it's kinda funny to think about.
  15. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    Cool! One particular aspect of European migration patterns in the era of the Black Death was that the Jews got largely blamed for the Black Death and got thrown out of nearly every country in Europe but Poland. The Jews were given refuge in Poland because the King of Poland was married to a nice Jewish girl who was named Queen Esther. Six hundred years later, Hitler conquered Poland and started the Holocaust.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2012
  16. Paidagogos

    Paidagogos Member

    I wonder about these unemployed, underemployed Ph.Ds in history, is there any sense that these guys think they are too proud for community colleges, or some other path other than tenure-track at some prestigious university? Just wondering?
  17. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    Back when I was in my senior year of college, in 1984, the then-current advice was that there was currently a glut of PhD Historians on the market, but that that should turn around by 1991 (the year by which a 1984 BA grad could expect to earn his PhD). What I am being told by those younger than myself is that the target date by which time the PhD glut would be over just keeps being pushed back further and further. BTW - An adjuncting job with no health insurance is not an option for someone with $2,000 a month in prescription bills.
  18. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    No, there is no such sense.

    It's true that there are very few tenure-track positions available at prestigious universities -- but the situation is no better at the second-tier universities and community colleges. In fact, the lower-ranked schools have typically been hit harder by the current economy than the more prestigious schools, which tend to be wealthier. So new PhDs work as adjunct professors wherever they can, often for poverty wages.

    For example, the professor highlighted in the recent news story, "The Ph.D. Now Comes With Food Stamps", has a doctorate in medieval history from the University of California at Irvine, one of the top research universities on the West Coast.

    She now teaches at a community college in Arizona. Her take-home pay is currently $900 per month, with no benefits. I expect she would be quite happy to accept a secure job, with decent pay and benefits, from any accredited institution of higher education.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2012
  19. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    It's also not an option for someone with a family, a mortgage or any other semblace of a normal life. I have a lot of respect for Historians and wish there was a way for people with these skills to make an honest living practicing their stuff. I have a strong interest in a (peripherally) related area, that being Anthropology. If the opportunity ever arises, this would be a degree that I would pursue even knowing that there is no financial ROI.
  20. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    Right you are.

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