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Research on the overeducated and underemployed in the news

Nationally, more than 33,000 food-stamp recipients have accredited PhD or JD degrees. Photo by Anne Hart: November day on a leaves-strewn walkway where pedestrians have to compete for strolling space with bikers along a quiet river scenario.


It's tempting for those with graduate degrees who are underemployed or unemployed to turn to writing books, scripts, plays, and other writing from research and newswriting to editing. One issue in the news is the underemployment or unemployment of so many PhDs and J.D.s. Another issue covered in newswriting is about still paying student loans when someone is over age 60. The question in various scenarios is whether the student loans being paid for are one's own loans for college years or the loans are those signed for a grand child's education by a grand parent.


In some cases the grandparent is not employed or retired and living off of meager savings and the grand child may be unemployed or underemployed. In the middle is the parent, who may still be raising small children at home and also may be underemployed or unemployed....three generations paying off educational loans or having problems due to unemployment in the face of various educational loans to pay off.


You live in a nation where there are numerous unemployed law school graduates saddled with student loan debt to the tune of a quarter million. College graduates with PhDs or other professional doctorates, including the J.D. are hit with law school or other graduate studies bills and a job market that has never been so competitive. Some people are still paying off student loans and are past the common retirement age in the USA. You may wish to see the TIME.com article, "Seniors Still Paying Student Loans."


There are so many attorneys out of work or underemployed, that some are suing their law schools. See, "A Bunch of Young Lawyers are Suing Their Law Schools Because They Don't Have Jobs." Thousands of law school graduates are working in jobs that don't require any college degrees and are not related to legal work. And numerous law-school graduates are unemployed or earning so little income, they qualify for food stamps. See, "From J.D. to Food Stamps: The Personal Cost of Going to Law School." Numerous pharmacy graduates also can't find work in their field in many areas where there's a glut. See, "More new pharmacists than the market ordered."


You may wish to check out the article, "Why we need food stamps." More than 33,000 food stamp recipients hold accredited PhD or JD degrees in the USA, according to that Sacramento Bee March 30, 2013 article by Elaine Corn, an award-winning cookbook author and former newspaper food editor. She reports about food for Capital Public Radio, 90.9 FM in Sacramento.

Why is there a mismatch between what employers need and what the schools turn out?


Meanwhile, there's a shortage of primary care physicians, family doctors in many areas, especially in under-served neighborhoods. That leaves thousands of PhDs in the liberal arts and social sciences out of work or working for minimum wages, otherwise underemployed, with a rising number going hungry daily or on food stamps. See, "Students Rely on Food Stamps to Purchase Necessities - Life."


At the same time you have a rising burden on the federal government to pay for those on food stamps wondering who's going to qualify and putting families who really go hungry daily in fear of being cut off with no open doors to better-paying work or business opportunities that are realistic.


People who get food stamps would like to be able to buy healthier foods


People buy food with which they're familiar. The problem is getting people to connect food with consequences on health. The number of people filing for food stamps tripled between 2007 and 2010. But are they buying healthy food or only food that quickly fills them up and costs what's available for their food-stamp budget? Are college graduates on food stamps buying healthier foods such as vegetables and fruits than those on food stamps with limited educations?


You'd have to look at what people on food stamps buy and match that with their educations or job skills and experience to see whether they're eating from childhood habit and familiarity with the food or connecting health consequences to the particular food. Are healthy foods even affordable on a food-stamp budget?


College graduates on food stamps: Numbers are rising


It has been noted in the article, 33,000 PhD's on Food Stamps?, that "After the recession took hold in 2007, the rate of PhD holders who've filed for government assistance more than tripled to 33,655 by 2010, according to data collected by Austin Nichols, a senior researcher with the Chronicle's Urban Institute." According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about one in three college graduates works in a job that doesn't require a four-year degree. With so many law school graduates unemployed, you have lawyers driving cabs.


Check out the article, "Law school grads in debt, PhDs bussing tables, and Bart Simpson." But with the average cost of medical school nearly $60,000 annually, you won't find many family doctors who have passed the national boards out of work and on food stamps, unless they become physically or mentally unable to work in their fields.

Also see the article, "Hundreds of thousands of Master's degree holders, PhDs on food stamps."


That Natural News article states, "A recent report compiled by the education resource group OnlineColleges.net found that more than 30,000 Americans with either Master's degrees or PhD.s were receiving food stamps in 2010 -- and many more are likely on some form of government assistance today as economic conditions since that time have only continued to worsen."


Supplemental nutrition or the only food available?


In Sacramento people who need food stamps apply for the program called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP. Check out the PDF file article, "Basic Facts About Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program." According to the article, to apply for food stamps in Sacramento, it's no longer stamps, but a debit card you use at the food market to buy groceries.


The facts about who receives food stamps or what's now called supplemental nutritional assistance include teachers who can't find work that pays enough to buy the food they need for themselves and/or their families, and so many college graduates with PhD and M.A. degrees who can't find jobs or whose jobs don't pay enough to buy food so that these Sacramentans and others in the nation go hungry daily.


Low-paid or unemployed college graduates and hunger in Sacramento


Check out the article, "Hundreds of thousands of Master's degree holders, PhDs on food stamps." Some of the low-paying jobs college graduates work in include food handling and/or serving, janitorial work, bartending, secretarial, administrative assistant, and clerical jobs, telemarketing, customer service representative, recreation attendants at seasonal amusement parks, part-time work such as giving music lessons from home, private tutoring in one subject such as literacy or writing, and parking lot attendants. Those with college degrees in demand for teaching or tutoring jobs usually focus on subjects that students need in what's known as "brutal courses" such as algebra, geometry, chemistry, and calculus or pre-engineering preparation.


There are too many graduates who majored in various humanities, social sciences, and communications majors competing for too few jobs that pay more than $15 an hour


You have an over abundance of English and journalism majors who are available for the few tutoring or teacher's aide jobs open to students. But once a person graduates, those tutoring opportunities sometimes get few and part-time, not something on which you can depend to pay rent and utilities or transportation expenses and taxes.


Check out the articles, "Not all college majors are created equal - Washington Post," and "What's the most useless college major? – Cafferty File - CNN.com." What you'll learn from those articles is that it's not always the major, but the graduate unable to transfer skills. For example, one person in the article, "What's the most useless college major?" reports she had majored in Spanish, but found a career as "managing director of one of the largest banks in the World. Dutch. No Spanish ever used or needed."


Not enough students are majoring in new majors such as biomedical engineering or mechanical, electrical, and software engineering because many are afraid of old-age discrimination once an engineer hits age 35 or 40 and is replaced by a 25-year old engineer earning less with health insurance also costing less than an older engineer out of work and sometimes not up-to-date in technical skills.


Biomedical engineering is listed as one of the top 10 best jobs in America today


See the article, "The Realities of Age Discrimination - Today's Engineer." Even those with engineering majors who are promised a 95% rate of employment after graduation in their field worry what will happen to them when they hit middle age, whether they'll be discriminated against in finding employment if and when they lose their jobs or are replaced by younger people willing to work more hours for less money or if the work is outsourced.


Biomedical engineering is attractive as an undergraduate college major for those who want to build and invent medical devices without having to go through medical school after college graduation. See, "Best Jobs in America 2010 - Top 100: Biomedical Engineer - Money."


You also can enter the field with an undergraduate mechanical, electrical, or chemical engineering degree, coupled with some biology background, or biology minor, if your school doesn't offer the B.S. in biomedical engineering. There's a better chance with this major of finding work than majoring in general biology and trying to find a job without also having an engineering background.


What technical majors worry about most is old age discrimination, which usually is not applied to physicians looking for a place to work that needs a family doctor. What liberal arts majors such as English, art, music, history, and journalism majors worry about most is outsourcing and competing against thousands of graduates with the same degrees, skills, and creative abilities looking for the few creative jobs available that actually pay enough to support the rent, utilities, food, transportation, clothing, and medical bills.


If you're earning minimum wages as a telemarketer or retail clerk, there's not much money left for food. If someone is able to pass the national exam for teachers, then substitute teaching may be available, but you don't know when you're called full-time or part time. So you can't sign a lease or buy a car when you don't know when you'll be called in to work and get paid. As a result of the uncertainty, you have a number of PhDs also driving cabs, if they can afford to get into that occupation.


How many Americans are on food stamps?


Statistics report that nationally, 46.6 million Americans are getting what's commonly called "food stamps." Of this figure, 17 million food stamp recipients are children. Just looking at Sacramento County, there are nearly a quarter-million people receiving food stamps to ward-off daily hunger.


Often the healthiest foods are not affordable to food stamp recipients. They could grow their own fresh produce, if urban land was available at a reasonable rent or free to people who qualify for food stamps. And growing your own organic produce is seasonal without a green house. Many of these people don't have access to urban gardens and don't have a backyard because they're living in small apartments.


Do PhDs and JDs on food stamps take minimum wage jobs from high-school graduates and retirees seeking to return to part-time work to make ends meet?


Some people even question the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding why are so many people getting food stamps. Is the problem that there are just too many PhDs on food stamps who aren't taking minimum wage jobs? And those who have worked for years in minimum wage jobs getting food stamps for their children just to stave off hunger also come from the ranks of those with limited educations and job skills different from what is needed by employers.


Some of the reasons why college graduates are on food stamps is that they were laid off from jobs or pushed out into retirement to make room for employing younger people with more energy who would work for less money or whose health insurance cost less. Other reasons is that many of these people had their own businesses which stopped earning enough income to buy food.


Who's eligible for food stamps in California?


To get food stamps in California, you need to qualify financially. One way is for the head of household to earn minimum wages, support a family of four, and not have the spouse earning much money. For example, a family of four in California is eligible for food stamps if the household income is less than $1,800 a month.


The average family in Sacramento getting food stamp money, only receives about $97 monthly in food stamps. The amount is on the debit card that food stamp recipients use when they buy food such as supermarket items counted as food. But if you have a large family and earn little, the maximum amount of money you'd qualify to receive in food stamps would be only $668 a month, and not many people get even that amount to feed a large family with little household income.


A couple and one child can get anywhere from the minimum for which you're approved to a few hundred dollars monthly. It depends on what you're approved to get based on household income. Family situations can vary. For example, a couple can have dependent children or may be middle-aged and caring for dependent elderly parents who have disabilities.


What do people think of "getting into the system?"


Fingerprinted no longer is required. When it was necessary, up until 2012, many recipients felt as if they were treated more like prisoners. But if you think again, a people who work for the government in certain jobs where security is high get fingerprinted and feel 'chosen' rather than treated like a prisoner because it's just another way to verify identity.


It's about how you view getting into the system. After all, retirees getting social security benefits are in the system as well, even if they earned the money they're being paid by working all their adult (and often teenage) lives. And nobody suggests fingerprinted the elderly. Then again, if you have an ID card from the state or a driver's license, you give your fingerprint for identification purposes, to get into the 'system.'


Food stamp recipients get a debit card that's prepaid with the amount of money you're allowed to spend on food for you and your family


The debit card isn't like a bank debit card, but it's prepaid. The technical name for it is the EBT card, also known as the Electronic Benefits Transfer card. It's used like a debit card to pay for groceries. The problem is getting people who don't connect their health with what they eat to what foods to buy that are affordable and available.

People may be buying foods they're accustomed to by habits formed in early childhood such as chips, frozen foods, and ready-to eat items or prepared mixes and canned items. More hot dogs and other processed cold-cuts are bought by those who aren't connecting cold cuts to studies on heart disease and hypertension.


The idea is to fill up on familiar foods without linking them to health except in vague ways known from advertisements. College graduates on food stamps may be choosing foods similar to those who quit high school because they're not connecting food and health consequences simply because they feel young and invincible or older and used to eating the way their parents ate and fed them when they were young.


Not many people will know which vegetables and fruits to buy if the organic produce is priced so high that the money runs out long before the month ends


The debit-like CalFresh card buys the food you want based on whether that food is affordable. Those against food stamps don't like the idea of people buying the food they're accustomed to by habits formed in early children as food stamp lifestyle is passed from one generation to the next, in spite of education that's deemed not applicable or transferable to current market needs.


Why there are so many college graduates on food stamps can be about a PhD or M.A. recipient in literature not being able to find a teaching job because math and science teachers are in more demand than teachers of fiction writing, or because the person with the college degree raised a family and is now looking for a teaching or publishing job with little experience.


Educated and out of work at any age: Employers hire those who pose the least financial risk


Being educated and out of work also affects homemakers returning to the workplace who are over the age of 50, and employers are looking for the 25-year old whose health insurance will cost less, that's one issue. You have a problem of veterans returning from combat duty who can't find jobs.


Another issue is when the employer who prefers the 25-year old who's going to take maternity leave within five years compared to the 50-year old who plans to retire at 65, has a dilemma of hiring the person who poses the least financial risk to the employer.


One big issue is that food stamp cards come out of the federal government's coffers


Who has to get paid is not the store owners, but the store owners as well as the farmer or manufacturer of the food item, the middle person who trucks the produce to the store, and the person eating the product.

All these middle persons on the food supply chain have to get paid from the government when someone on food stamps buys food. That means higher taxes.


Motivation to apply for food stamps for the overeducated and underemployed


The person who uses the food stamp debit card thinks the food money allowance may motivate the person to find ways to earn more money or learn different job skills and apply for internships to become employable in more ways. The consumer lives in fear of cuts to the food stamp program because hunger hurts every family member. The big problem is the dramatic rise in the number of people on food stamps. College graduate food stamp holders compete with food stamp recipients who have a high-school education or less.


Who's looking into the reason why more than 33,000 people with PhDs are on food stamps? Are all of these people over-educated and underemployed, too physically or mentally ill to work, or the need for college degrees in certain subjects isn't there for most of these people?


At least there is a government safety net. But if you ask a college graduate living at home with parents why he or she is applying for food stamps, the reason can differ with each individual. Who deserves food stamps, the recent college graduate, the elderly widow living below the poverty line, or the PhD who can't find work? And who is qualified to make such a decision?


Do college graduates on food stamps eat healthier foods than persons on food stamps with less education?


Nutrition researchers also are curious whether unemployed or underemployed and part-time workers who are college graduates on food stamps buy different foods, healthier foods, such as more produce, than food-stamp holders with less than high-school education or high-school graduates seeking clerical or blue-collar jobs?

The issue also is about who connects food and health consequences and who has access to the research tailoring foods to individual health or on health and nutrition, especially for the uninsured or under-insured person on food stamps, regardless of education? And who will be cut first from food stamp money when or if the government decides to make budget cuts or runs out of enough money for supplemental nutrition programs?