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Less-Educated Wisconsinites Faring Worse As Job Growth Shifts From Manufacturing To Service Industry

New Study Finds Retirement-Age Americans Without A College Degree Had Lower Wages, Shorter Life Expectancy Than Older Group

Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found retirement-age Americans without a college degree are worse off than their parents’ generation.

The study found white Americans born around the 1960’s who didn’t go to college earned lower wages than the same demographic born 20 years earlier.

The younger cohort were also expected to pay much higher out-of-pocket medical expenses and had lower life expectancies than the older group.

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Steven Deller, interim director of the Center for Community & Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the report confirms trends seen in Wisconsin as jobs shift away from manufacturing.

“It was possible to barely make it out of high school and land a job at a manufacturing firm making decent wages,” Deller said. “Many of (those jobs) are going overseas and a lot of the jobs that we’re generating now are in the service sector and they simply don’t pay those kind of wages.”

Deller said the recreation industry, especially tourism, has seen job growth in Wisconsin. He said these jobs tend to be part-time or seasonal and offer fewer opportunities for upward mobility.

“Part of the problem is we’re becoming satisfied with low-paying jobs. You go into some communities and the idea is $15-per-hour is a good paying job. $15-per-hour is barely above the poverty wage,” Deller said. “We’ve kind of lowered our expectations in terms of what a good job is and that’s kind of reinforcing and feeding into this problem of the growing working poor.”

While the Federal Reserve study only looks at white non-college-educated Americans, the study authors say the demographic group is “hardly the only disadvantaged population losing ground.”

Deller said challenges faced by non-college-educated African-Americans in Wisconsin have been similar to white residents. He said the Hispanic population continues to be more mobile in pursuit of employment, which is growing most in more populated communities.