Taxi Drivers with College Degrees

Categories Career, Education

Peter Orszag, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget for President Obama opined on Bloomberg why we have so many college graduates driving taxi.  It is an excellent question.  Anecdotally, Orszag seems right.  I definitely have met highly educated taxi (and Uber) drivers before.  To back up his claim, Orszag cited some research, including work by Richard Vedder at OSU.  Vedder and his colleagues have done extensive research on the commoditization of college education over the last half century. President Obama and others have staked the future of the U.S. by advocating the increase of college graduates.  The viewpoint of Vedder is completely opposite to Obama’s and we’ll discuss it more later.  It is important to validate the underlying data before discussing the different viewpoints.  As such, I decided to replicate the data analysis.  Essentially, I need to find time series employment data for a given occupation broken out by education attainment.  I started at both the US Census and BLS web sites but couldn’t find the data.  Then I remember the IPUM website, which provides anonymized micro-data of the Census and BLS surveys.  I haven’t used the IPUM site for some time and it took me a bit of effort to look up the appropriate occupation code for the taxi drivers as it has changed over the years.  The chart above clearly shows an increasing trend of taxi driver with college degrees (four-year degree or higher).  Data between 1950 and 2000 is available every 10 years.   Data after 2000, available every year, shows some interesting movement but the increasing trend persists.  Since survey is subject to measurement error, I would not hold my breath on the exact percentage of taxi drivers with college degrees.  However, the trend over time should be reasonably accurate.   Orszag and Vedder’s arguments appear to be supported by data.

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