appear in the forthcoming issue of The International Journal of Contemporary
HUMAN CAPITAL THEORY:
D. W. Livingstone*
University of Toronto
3. "POST-INDUSTRIAL/KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY" THEORIES
4. THE KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY: PYRAMIDS AND ICEBERGS OF
5. THE GROWTH OF UNDEREMPLOYMENT
6. THE LIMITS OF HUMAN CAPITAL THEORY
7. THE RETOOLING OF HUMAN CAPITAL THEORY
8. CONFLICT THEORIES OF KNOWLEDGE AND WORK
9. CLASS AND THE PERFORMANCE GAP
10. CONCLUDING REMARKS
|Human capital theory, the dominant approach to explaining
education-employment relations, posits that greater individual and aggregate
investments in learning activities lead to greater individual and societal
economic benefits. However, the learning efforts of the potential labor
force (in terms of formal schooling, further education and informal learning)
now appear to far exceed opportunities to apply employ-ment-related knowledge
in advanced industrial societies. There is mounting empirical evidence
of widespread underemployment. In spite of retooling efforts, human capital
theory remains fixated on individualistic market relations and unable to
deal with the general problem of underutilization of investment in learning.
An alternative theoretical perspective which emphasizes power dimensions
of learning and work relations rather than further educational investments
is suggested to address the underemployment problem.
Earnings greatly understate the social productivity
of college graduates (and other educated persons) because they are (allegedly)
only partly compensated for their effect on the development and spread
of economic knowledge. (Gary Becker 1964, p. 209)
The current employment situation entails an enormous
waste of resources and an unacceptable level of human suffering. It has
led to growing social exclusion, rising inequality between and within nations,
and a host of social ills. It is thus both morally unacceptable and economically
irrational. (Michael Hansenne, Director-General, International Labor
Office, 1995, p. 93).
| One of the most common mistakes of human reasoning
is to make false generalizations from individual examples. A familiar instance
is the "Horatio Alger myth." This is the belief that because a few individuals
have been able to ascend from lowly social origins to become very rich,
anyone else could do it too if they only exerted the same effort. Generalizing
from individual cases to aggregate conditions without carefully assessing
the representativeness of the individuals and the overall situation they
face is to commit a fallacy of composition error of logic. While there
has been substantial upward and downward mobility in advanced industrial
societies (Turner, 1992), a dominant tendency persists for those with vested
interests in existing institutional structures to exaggerate the extent
of upward mobility by pointing to exceptional individual cases. I will
argue that this error of logic is inherent in human capital theory,
the currently dominant perspective for explaining relations between education
and employment, because of its narrow and presumptive focus on individual
During the post-World War II expansionary era, investment
in formal education was associated with both higher individual earnings
and growing societal wealth. These relationships have been extensively
conceptualized and documented by human capital theory which stresses the
value of peoples' learning capacities as a factor of economic productivity
1964). This perspective is built on the intellectual foundations of neo-classical
market theory and the generally optimistic assumptions of the evolutionary
progress paradigm (see Livingstone, 1999, pp. 134-137). It reflected the
post-WWII conditions of simultaneous expansion of employment and education
fairly well, even though Berg (1970) and others documented the existence
of a significant performance gap in the 1950s. The 'learning-earning" link
may still be valid at the individual level, although with diminishing marginal
utility. But it is disintegrating at the aggregate or societal level and
this disintegration is occurring beyond the margins of the market returns
perspective of human capital theory.
We are now living in a knowledge society, in the sense
that people in general are devoting more time to learning new knowledge
and skills than ever before. But as this aggregate knowledge increases,
the opportunities to apply it in paid workplaces have not kept pace. As
I will document, the underemployment of adults' relevant knowledge in contemporary
employment is a large and growing problem. The notion of " "knowledge-based
economy" remains largely illusory for most of the labor force. In response
to these conditions, there have been several attempts to retool human capital
theory without contesting its underlying individualistic fallacy or recognizing
the pervasive phenomenon of underemployment. In this paper, I will critically
assess claims for a knowledge economy, document the growth of both a knowledge
society and underemployment, identify specific limits of conventional human
capital theory, briefly review efforts to retool this theory, and suggest
an alternative theoretical perspective which pays greater attention to
power dimensions of learning-employment relations.
|As promoted most notably by Daniel Bell (1964, 1973)
in the U.S., John Porter (1971) in Canada, Alain Touraine (1969) in France
and Radovan Richta (1969) in eastern Europe,1 post-industrial
theory anticipated the growing centrality of theoretical knowledge, continuing
expansion of tertiary-level occupations, the increasing eminence of a professional
and technical class, and a general upgrading of the skills needed for employment,
as well as greater leisure time. Similar assumptions have been taken up
uncritically by many more recent advocates of the "knowledge economy" (e.g.
Marshall and Tucker, 1992; Stewart, 1997). This mode of thought serves
to glorify the capacities of technocrats/experts themselves and resonates
with increasing attempts by professional experts in many fields to monopolize
knowledge that many others are capable of mastering and using (Derber,
Schwartz and Magrass 1990; Perkins 1996; Parenti 1996). This is surely
one reason why, in spite of demonstrated empirical inadequacies and withering
critiques from other researchers, post-industrial/knowledge economy advocates
continue to assert the increasing pervasiveness of scientific knowledge
and upgraded skills in the workplace.2
The theories of post-industrialism have promoted the belief
that the prevalence of information processing over material handling in
the mode of production would necessitate skill upgrading and greater creativity
and critical thinking of workers. In short, post-industrial/ knowledge
economy theories generally assume or assert that workers increasingly
require more skill, become more involved in planning their own work, and
increasingly constitute a professional class.
There have certainly been substantial changes in the composition
of the employed workforce over the past generation in nearly all market
economies. Most obviously, there has been sectoral decline of manufacturing
and relative growth of personal, financial and social service employment.
This is the pivot point for most "post-industrial" projections. Other evident
compositional shifts have been the relative increase of part-time and temporary
jobs, and greater participation of married women in paid employment (see
OECD 1994). But in relation to these compositional shifts, empirical researchers
have been at least as likely to posit deskilling, less planning involvement
and poorer compensation as their post-industrial opposites. Indeed, for
virtually every aspect of contemporary paid work, advocates of degradation
theses rather than post-industrial upgrading trends can be easily found
in the research literature. Part of the difficulty in assessing levels
and changes in actual work requirements has been that our customary ways
of thinking about these requirements do not clearly distinguish between
the technical tasks involved and the people doing them.
A balanced assessment of the contemporary character of
and trends in paid work requirements should directly consider: (1) the
division of labor in terms of the allocation of simple and complex
tasks between jobs; (2) the social division of labor in terms of
the respective participation of various workers in planning the execution
of tasks; and (3) their consequential effects on the class structure
of paid work.3
Overall, the weight of available North American empirical
evidence suggests that there has indeed been a net upgrading of the technical
skill requirements of the job structure since the 1940s. But the most substantial
gains occurred prior to 1960 and the slight upgrading that is discernible
since then reveals the related upgrading claims of most post-industrial/knowledge
economy theorists to be quite exaggerated.
With regard to the social division of labor, comparative
analyses suggest that the extent of skill utilization in the workplace
is a function of the social bargains that have been struck and continue
to be negotiated between employers and employees rather than any immutable
trend. The success of the Japanese model of collective capitalism versus
the American model of managerial capitalism (see Lazonick, 1991) in increasing
productivity and the consequent "Japanese challenge" in established markets
of American firms provoked increasing management receptivity to experiment
with new forms of industrial relations in the U.S., just as the post WWII
reconstruction and the "American challenge" did previously in Europe (Servan-Schrieber
1971). While the roots of managerial capitalism run deep in North America,
even here shifts to new social divisions of labor that require increased
worker input have been underway for some time at levels ranging from business
organizational strategies to specific job redesign (Kochan and Useem 1992).
But such shifts to greater worker involvement in production decisions appear
to have been very gradual and limited to date.
So what effects have these continuities and changes in
the technical and social divisions of labor had on the occupational class
structure? Overall, the changing class structure is probably associated
with gradually increasing skill requirements for paid work in most advanced
private market economies. Daniel Bell's professional class is increasing,
but very slowly. Working class jobs with narrow technical task require-ments
and very limited social authority continue to constitute the numerically
predominant class position. The so-called "post-industrial era" does not
appear to have produced the oft-claimed more interesting and fulfilling
paid work for burgeoning numbers of professional experts and other knowledge
workers. Certainly the proliferation of information technology has not
produced the more pleasurable work for all that advocates like Bell had
projected (see Kumar, 1995). These trends are much more modest than the
visions of a knowledge-based economy initially expressed by post-industrial
theorists in the early 1960s projected, and especially modest in comparison
with the massive expansion of peoples' efforts to acquire knowledge.
KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY: PYRAMIDS AND ICEBERGS OF LEARNING
|We can distinguish three types of learning among adults:
formal schooling, further education courses, and informal learning.4
The incidence of all three appears to have increased very significantly
in the post-1970 period in all advanced industrial societies. I will present
empirical evidence from Canada here because we have recently conducted
the first national survey of adult informal learning done anywhere in the
past 20 years (see NALL, 1998).5 But similar trends in formal
schooling and further education have been documented elsewhere as well
(see Livingstone, 1999, pp. 12-51).
Participation in all forms of schooling and further education
has increased dramatically in Canada over the past two generations. High
school completion has increased rapidly. The proportion of the labor force
with less than high school completion dropped from nearly half to around
a quarter between the 1970s and the 1990s (see Livingstone, 1999, Tables
1.2 and 1.4). Only about 15% of current youth cohorts are not obtaining
a high school diploma either through continuous enrolment or after "stopping
out." Post-secondary enrollments have grown even more rapidly, particularly
since the creation of community colleges in the 1960s. Between 1981 and
1996, participation of the actual 20 to 24 age cohort in post-secondary
educational institutions in Canada doubled, so that about a third of this
cohort is now enrolled, one of the world's highest participation rates
(Betcherman et al., 1998).
The annual participation rate in adult further education
circa 1960 was about 4% of the entire adult Canadian population. By the
early 1990s, it was about 30% (Livingstone, 1999, Table 1.6). So within
a period of about thirty years there was an increase of about six or seven
times in the participation rate. This was still lower than the participation
rates in many European countries. The 1998 NALL survey finds that participation
in adult education and training courses and workshops continues to grow
in Canada and that the popular demand for greater future provision of further
education courses is even stronger. In summary, nearly half of the increasingly
highly schooled Canadian adult population is now actively engaged in taking
further education and training courses or other forms of continuing education,
the majority are planning to take further education courses in the near
future, and even more would do so if their prior learning achievements
were recognized. Most Canadian adults now believe they have quite sufficient
learning skills to benefit from further education courses, but many of
those who would like to participate in further education face serious institutional
or personal constraints on doing so (e.g. McEwen, 1998).
The NALL 1998 survey confirms that adult learning is like
an iceberg--mostly invisible at the surface and immense in its submerged
informal aspects. The survey assesses participation in four aspects of
informal learning: employment related; community volunteer work related;
household work related; and other general interest related. In each aspect,
respondents were asked about informal learning activities on several specific
themes. The basic findings are as follows. Those in the current labor force
or expecting to be soon (about 2/3 of the total sample) now average about
6 hours a week in informal learning related to their current or prospective
future employment, including new general job/career knowledge, computer
learning, and occupational health and safety. Those involved in household
work over the past year (around 90%) have averaged about 5 hours per week
in informal learning related to their household work, including home renovations
and gardening, home cooking and home maintenance. Those who have been involved
in community work over past years (over 40%) devote about four hours a
week on average to community related informal learning, including interpersonal
skills, communication skills, social issues and organizational/managerial
skills. Most people also engage in some other types of informal learning
related to their general interests. Those who do so (around 90%) spend
on average about 6 hours a week on these learning activities. The most
common ones are learning about health and well being, environmental issues,
finances, hobby skills, social skills, public issues, computers, sports
Nearly all Canadian adults (over 95%) are involved in
some form of informal learning activities that they can identify as significant.
The survey provides estimates of the total amount of time that all Canadians
are spending in all four areas (employment, community, household, and general
interest). The average number of hours devoted to informal learning activities
by all Canadian adults over the past year was around 15 hours per week.
is vastly more time than Canadian adults are spending in organized education
courses (an average of around 4 hours per week if we include the entire
population). The iceberg metaphor is not exact but close enough.
Prior Canadian case studies and U.S. surveys of self-directed
learning activities in the 1970s found averages of 10 hours or less per
week (see Livingstone, 1999, Table 1.7, p. 36). Ontario surveys which contain
comparable items have found that the incidence of informal learning activities
increased from 12 to 15 hours between 1996 and late 1998 (Livingstone,
Hart and Davie, 1999). While measuring the iceberg of informal learning
remains an elusive task, the available evidence suggests that the amount
of time adults are devoting to informal learning appears to have increased
significantly in recent years. There is great variation in the total amount
of informal learning that Canadian adults say they are now doing. But clearly,
the overwhelming majority of Canadian adults are now spending a significant
and recognizable amount of time regularly in these pursuits.
Prior studies of informal learning have found more variation
within most social groupings (such as age, sex, level of schooling, income,
ethnic groups) than between them (see Tough, 1971, 1978). The 1998 NALL
survey also finds this general pattern across most of these social differences,
as well as across occupational classes. In particular, those with the least
schooling appear to be devoting at least as much time on average to most
forms of informal learning as those with higher levels of schooling.
This lack of difference across major social groups is
an extremely important finding for comprehending the full character of
our knowledge society. Anyone can engage in informal learning on their
own volition and schedule, and apparently people in socially disadvantaged
statuses are just as likely to do so as those in the most socially dominant
positions (although the most oppressed people may have less discretionary
time beyond necessary employment and household work to engage in informal
learning activities). The submerged informal part of the iceberg of adult
learning does not have the same hierarchical structure as the exposed pyramid
of organized education. While we are really still at the "ether stage"
of understanding the processes and outcomes of informal learning, case
studies of the actual learning practices of adults with limited formal
education--such as recent ethnographic research in the situated learning
theory tradition (e.g. Engestrom, 1992)--strongly suggest that much of
this learning involves quite high levels of skill competency. Much as it
contradicts the dominant meritocratic ideology of our "credential society,"
the less schooled are in many instances and significant dimensions of knowledge
at least as competent as the more highly schooled. Investments in informal
learning may have many motivations, but they are clearly not comprehended
by the market reward calculus of human capital theory.
People in all advanced industrial societies are investing
more time in formal schooling and further education than ever before. While
there are few recent surveys to confirm it, the informal learning in which
most adults invest much more of their learning time also appears to have
increased significantly in recent years. If, as careful analyses of the
skill requirements of the job structure suggest, the rapid rate of expansion
of learning activity has not been matched by a comparable rate of expansion
of demand for utilization of knowledge by workers, the logical conclusion
would be that the underemployment of the acquired knowledge of the labor
force must have increased.
GROWTH OF UNDEREMPLOYMENT
Table 1 Trends in Performance
|At least six dimensions of the underemployment of the
knowledge and skills of the workforce may be distinguished in contemporary
societies. These are: The talent use gap; structural unemployment; involuntary
reduced employment; the credential gap; the performance gap; and subjective
underemployment. I have documented the increasing incidence of underemployment
on most of these dimensions elsewhere (see Livingstone, 1999, pp. 52-132).
Here I will summarize the general findings on the performance gap, based
on series of U.S. and Canadian surveys.
The performance gap refers to the extent to which job
holders are able to use their achieved levels of skill and knowledge in
actually performing their jobs. The most commonly used indicator of skill
levels in the U.S. and Canada has been the general educational development
(GED) scale. The GED scale is intended to embrace three dimensions of knowledge
(i.e. reasoning, mathematical and language development) which are required
of the worker for satisfactory job performance.
Several major attempts have been made in the U.S. to estimate
the extent of correspondence between these performance requirements and
the skills acquired through schooling (Eckhaus, 1964; Berg, 1970; Burris,
1983). Without going into the technicalities of the various estimating
procedures here (see Livingstone, 1999, pp. 78-85), I will only note that
all have found a substantial extent of aggregate-level underemployment
of workers' actual levels of formal knowledge in relation to estimated
job performance requirements.
The best available North American time-series data bases
to assess recent levels and trends in educational attainments and performance
requirements are the annual national surveys of the National Opinion Research
Center (NORC) and the biennial Ontario surveys conducted by the Ontario
Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT).6
The NORC survey reports from 1972 to 1990 include GED scores for occupations
based on 1971 estimates.7 The 1980 to 1996 OISE/UT survey data
on respondents' occupations have been assigned GED codes based on the coding
scheme developed by Alf Hunter and his colleagues (Hunter and Manley 1986;
Hunter 1988),8 from the Canadian Classification and Dictionary
of Occupations for the 1971 census. Applying the various GED-based measures
to these data sets produces estimates of the actual level of performance
underemployment in both the U.S. and Ontario of between a quarter and three-quarters
of the employed labor force, and most likely between 40 and 60 percent.
I have conducted trend analyses for both the U.S. and
Ontario surveys using all previously established measures. The general
trends are similar for all measures. The results using Ivar Berg's (1970)
initial measure are presented in Table 1. The extent of performance underemployment
appears to have increased during the periods of these surveys. According
to the Berg measure, there was a gradual increase from 46 percent to over
60 percent of the employed U.S. labor force being underemployed between
1972 and 1990; the comparable figures for Ontario suggest an increase from
44 percent underemployment to just under 60 percent between 1980 and 1996,
a slightly shorter but more recent period. According to this measure, performance
underemployment has now become a majority condition for the North American
Other studies, not based on GED measures, have found that,
since the early 1970s, almost a third of the employed North American workforce
have had work-related skills that they could use in their jobs but have
not been permitted to do so; this actual underuse appears to have grown
to include over 40 percent of the entire workforce in the 1990s.9
In spite of much rhetoric about skill deficiencies of
the current workforce, there is still little evidence of any general and
persistent technical skill deficit among employed workers. A recent survey
by the National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce (1995)
has found that U.S. employers consider over 80 percent of their employees
to be fully technically proficient in their current jobs, and that most
employers are more concerned with prospective employees' attitudes than
their industry-based skills or prior school performance. The basic point
is that the performance gap between educational attainments and actual
technical job skill requirements in North America is extensive and increasing
on all available measures.
In spite of the increasing performance gap and widespread
conditions of underemployment on other dimensions as well, there is very
substantial unfulfilled demand for access to further education courses
among the less affluent and especially among the underemployed (Livingstone,
1999, pp. 97-132). A large and increasing majority of people now regard
an advanced education as very important to get along
U.S. 1972-1990 and Ontario 1980-1996 (using
Sources: Davis and Smith (1994) and OISE
Survey of Educational Issues Data Archive.
United States (%)
|in society (Livingstone, Hart and Davie, 1999). Access
to further education programs is clearly the institutional key to responding
to adult demand for knowledge. But, as Table 2 summarizes, in spite of
large gains in the educational attainments of lower social classes, the
differences between actual and desired participation in further education
still vary greatly between occupational classes.
Table 2 Schooling,
Further Education, Interest in PLAR* Credit and
Incidence of Informal Learning by Occupational
Class, Canada, 1998
* PLAR= prior learning assessment and recognition.
||Occupational University Course/
Interest in Informal
|Class Degree (%) Workshop
Courses if Learning
Last Year PLAR (%)
** Special supplementary sample, Ontario only (Livingstone
et al, 1999).
|Occupational class differences in the incidence of different
types of adult learning activities confirm the existence of a massive egalitarian
informal learning society hidden beneath the pyramidal class structured
forms of schooling and further education. The incidence of informal learning
among workers and the unemployed is at least as great as among more affluent
and highly schooled classes. Corporate executives, managers and professional
employees have much higher levels of formal schooling than working class
people and are also more likely to have participated in further education
courses or workshops last year. However, they are not more likely than
the working classes to want to take courses if they receive recognition
for their prior informal learning. The gap between current and desired
participation is very much greater for working class people. The pent up
demand for further education among the less affluent may have been as much
ignored as their extensive informal learning activities.
While less than five percent of the active labor force
feel underqualified for their current jobs according to this survey, nearly
40 percent feel at least moderate pressure from employers to engage in
further employment-related learning on their own time, and around half
of the further education courses they take are required by their employers
(NALL, 1998). So, it appears that credential inflation does not cease with
initial job entry, but that many job holders continue to acquire more skills
that they may not be able to apply in their present jobs-either to hold
on to these jobs or in the hope that they will eventually get better ones.
The capacity of paid workplaces to utilize people's knowledge
has become increasingly problematic. As a consequence of their presumption
of the increasing centrality of scientific/technological knowledge and
general skill upgrading of the workplace, post-industrial/knowledge economy
theorists have continued to ignore most aspects of underemployment, most
notably the performance gap. With increasing underemployment, human capital
theorists' related claims about connections between investment in learning
and workplace rewards have also become less credible.
LIMITS OF HUMAN CAPITAL THEORY
Table 3 Change
in Real Hourly Wage by Education, U.S. Labor Force, 1973-1995
|The most influential explanation currently on offer to
account specifically for education-job relations is human capital theory.
The core thesis is that peoples' learning capacities are comparable to
other natural resources involved in the capitalist production process;
when the resource is effectively exploited the results are profitable both
for the enterprise and for society as a whole. From its inception in the
United States after World War II, human capital theory tended to equate
workers' knowledge levels primarily with their levels of formal schooling,
to rely on quantitative indices of amount of schooling in estimating individual
economic returns to learning, and to infer that more schooling would lead
to higher productivity and macroeconomic growth (e.g. Schultz 1963; Becker
1964). Throughout the post-1945 expansionary era, the simultaneous increase
of school participation rates and earned incomes in advanced industrial
market economies lent apparent support to both the individual and aggregate
dimensions of this perspective and encouraged the popular view that more
schooling would inevitably lead to greater economic success.
The individual level relationship between educational
attainment and income has remained strong in relative terms. In all advanced
industrial market economies, university graduates have consistently earned
significantly more than high school graduates since 1970 (see Livingstone,
1999, p. 163). Individual investment in higher education has therefore
continued to represent a reasonable economic choice as long as the individual
economic costs of obtaining it (in terms of tuition fees and deferred income)
were not prohibitive.
However, simple earnings ratios do not tell the whole
story. As Table 3 summarizes for the U.S. case, real wages in constant
dollars are lower in the mid 1990s than they were in the early 1970s for
all workers except those with advanced degrees. The wages of other college
graduates have slowly climbed back to early 1970s levels but those of people
without a college degree have continued to fall precipitously. The decline
in wages for the non-college workforce may be attributable to many factors,
including deunionization, a shift to low wage industries, a falling minimum
wage, and import competition. But, as the evidence cited above indicates,
this wage decline is unlikely to be related to the declining technical
skill of the U.S. workforce. In any case, it is clear that the main cause
of the growing wage gap between U.S. college graduates and less educated
workers has been the decline of non-college workers' wages rather than
any strong growth in the college wage (Mishel, Bernstein and Schmitt 1997,
Source: Mishel, Bernstein and Schmitt
(1997, Table 3.18).
||(in 1995 dollars)
Table 4 Hourly
Compensation, Education and Skill Levels, U.S. Nonfarm Business Sector,
|More generally, while school enrolment rates continued
to increase since the early 1970s, average incomes have stagnated, unemployment
rates have fluctuated mainly upwards and underemployment of highly schooled
people has been recognized as a social problem. The applicability of human
capital theory's aggregate or societal-level "returns to learning"
claims has been thrown into doubt. The belief that more education brings
greater societal economic benefit has been a general article of faith in
all post-industrial theories and cornerstone of human capital theories.
The end of the post-WWII expansionary era in the early 1970s brought serious
challenge to this belief. As Table 4 summarizes, real increases in average
wages and benefits for the U.S. labor force as a whole virtually ceased
during the 1970s while the average education and skill levels of the workforce
continued to increase. Contrary to the precepts of human capital theory,
collective investment in education has grown significantly while compensation
growth has stagnated.
*The Bureau of Labor Skill
Index is a broad measure of labor skill which reflects changes in the amount
and economic value of experience and educational levels.
Mishel, Bernstein and Schmitt (1997, Table B, 25).
|During the same period, 1973 to 1995, the real U.S. Gross
Domestic Product rose by nearly 40 percent, while real hourly wages of
non-supervisory workers declined by about 15 percent; during the 1980s,
virtually all of the earnings gains went to the top 20 percent of the workforce,
two-thirds accruing to the top one percent of earners (Thurow 1996). Similar
trends have been found in Canada (Morisette et al 1995). By the mid-1990s,
the typical U.S. chief executive officer was making well over 100 times
as much as the typical factory worker. This huge wage gap, far larger than
in any other advanced industrial economy, had more than doubled since the
1970s (Sklar 1995, 11).10 But aside from the extraordinary gains
of executives, the rising wage differential between college educated and
non-college educated employees during the 1980s and 90s in the U.S. has
been more the result of declining wages for the many than of increasing
salaries for the few.
In this context of stagnant wages and continuing general
increases in the education and skill levels of the overall workforce, the
association between income and conventional measures of skill such as GED
has been modest and declining. As Gittleman and Howell (1995, 423-27) document
for the U.S. case in their 1973-90 analysis of six job quality "contours,"
the majority of "subordinate primary" contour blue collar workers who are
unionized have been able to protect their wage levels far better than white
collar service workers who have higher cognitive skill requirements in
their jobs but who are rarely unionized; the poor, non-union "secondary"
service and blue collar jobs that remained around 40 percent of U.S. jobs
during the 1980s, and which employed very high proportions of blacks and
Hispanics, saw wage levels and most other aspects of job quality decline
while occupants' education levels increased. Earlier comparative analyses
of skill and wage trends during the 1960-85 period found that low skill,
high wage jobs were declining in the goods industries while service jobs
with low wages but at least moderate skill levels were increasing (Howell
and Wolff 1991). The growing weight of empirical evidence makes it clear
that, rather than a "skill deficit," most working Americans are now experiencing
a "wage deficit" (Sklar 1995, 28; Mishel and Teixeira 1991). The most highly
educated work force in the world now works longer for less than do less
educated but more unionized workers in other major industrialized countries
(OECD 1994d, 22-23).
RETOOLING OF HUMAN CAPITAL THEORY
|Human capital theory clearly needs to be retooled. There
have been at least three sorts of retooling efforts which focus, respectively,
on stressing the relative individual benefits of schooling, enhancing the
quality of schooling, and emphasizing the benefits of lifelong learning.
Adherents to the original human capital thesis have attempted
to defend it against critiques that it has failed to take account of changing
aggregate-level conditions, by focusing quite narrowly on documenting continuing
economic benefits, especially the lower unemployment rates and relatively
high earnings of those with higher formal credentials. The declining collective
economic rewards for educational investment tend to be regarded as a continuation
of only partial compensation through individual incomes and more intangible
spin-off benefits for the general enrichment of civil society; so nations
that have invested more in schooling are still considered ahead in global
competition (Becker 1993, 1996). Recent sociological perspectives, such
as Ulrich Beck's (1992) individualization theorem, that stress the disintegration
of class commonalities and the rise of competition as the main mode of
human interaction, offer some theoretical support for closer attention
to individual training and job choices (see Timmerman 1995). But the narrowing
of the empirical target to relative individual benefits simply ignores
the biggest challenge to human capital theory, the evident societal underemployment
of credentialed knowledge.
Secondly, some human capital advocates have suggested
that declining or unimproving quality of schooling is now the central problem,
and that by raising standards, starting earlier or providing more privatized
or specialized forms, both human capital creation and economic growth can
be rejuvenated (Beckman and Klenow 1997). Nobody would argue against continuing
to try to improve the quality of educational services; but many would disagree
that educational quality has in fact declined. Some human capital analysts
offer more nuanced relative arguments for school reforms to enhance national
productivity and economic competitiveness based on comparative studies
of superior student performance in other countries, such as U.S. comparisons
with Japan, Taiwan and China (Stevenson and Stigler 1992). But the general
assumption is that the post-industrial/knowledge economy requires a leap
in workers' skills and the schools must perform to higher standards to
close the gap (e.g. Business Week 1988, 104). The focus is usually on the
skills purportedly needed by "high performance" firms, and numerous innovative
school reforms have been suggested to make the schools more responsive
to these needs and thereby close the gap (e.g. Berryman and Bailey 1992;
Marshall and Tucker 1992; Resnick and Wirt 1996).
The claim that declining school quality is serving to
depreciate human capital is typically made in terms of young people's falling
performance levels on standardized tests. Such historical comparisons are
often fraught with fallacy of composition errors of logic. That is, either
average scores of entire current youth cohorts are compared with those
of more restricted earlier enrollments, or specific bits of knowledge are
used to argue an increasing general ignorance thesis. While most of these
claims have now been systematically refuted (see especially Sandia Laboratories
1993; Berliner and Biddle 1995, 1996; Mishel et al. 1997, 182-84), they
continue to be recycled in evermore selective forms. Of course, the curricula
and pedagogies of current educational systems will change, and we can and
should continue to try to improve them; raising standards, starting earlier
and more relevant curriculum all remain worthy objectives. But rather than
bemoaning decline from an idealized past, or becoming fixated on international
league tables of current math scores, we should celebrate the fact that
much larger and increasing proportions of today's young people are mastering
much larger and increasing bodies of school knowledge (see Bracey, 1997).
The recent purported crisis in adult illiteracy has also found little empirical
basis (Livingstone, 1999, pp. 42-51). In sum, the evidence does not show
any cumulative general decline in the quality of education. What it does
show is that people of all ages in advanced industrial market economies
are increasingly using their learning capacities more effectively through
the institutions of organized education to gain greater amounts of knowledge.
If the aggregate quality of schooling has not been shown to decline inter-generationally,
this is a significant achievement in light of the massive increases in
the proportion of the population participating and particularly the increasing
proportions of non-English speaking entrants into the school system. Blaming
the quality of the educational system for the breakdown of the aggregate
learning-earning connection is like blaming the producer of any form of
labor for employers' failure to utilize it. Do we blame the chef for the
patron's failure to finish a well-cooked meal?
Thirdly, some popular revisionist approaches to human
capital theory no longer focus on schooling but on "human capital externalities,"
such as lifelong job-related learning among workers (Lucas 1988; Romer
1994). The dynamic center of human capital creation is now seen to reside
either in highly concentrated urban zones where "symbolic analysts" live,
work and continually solve, identify and broker production problems (Reich
1991), or in "learning organizations" which create intellectual capital
by facilitating collaborative problem solving within their workforces (Senge
1990; Nyhan 1991). The central empirical claim of human capital theory--that
greater learning efforts are closely related to higher earning level--is
resuscitated by downplaying schooling and emphasizing that effective employees
must become continual adult learners in an increasingly globally competitive
enterprise environment (OECD 1996).
The "learning organization" arguments of human capital
revisionists like Reich and Senge, although largely rhetorical to date,
begin to draw greater attention to aspects of learning previously ignored
or taken for granted by human capital theory's earlier fixation on schooling
and credentialed knowledge, namely the informal work-related learning of
workers and their cumulative bodies of tacit knowledge. In some sense,
we all know that substantial informal learning is essential to master a
new job. Most employers rely heavily on informal on-the-job training. Prior
studies have typically found that over 70 percent of job training is done
through informal learning and the NALL 1998 survey offers further extensive
evidence. However, these studies of work-related informal learning (see
Livingstone, 1999, pp. 38-42) seriously undermine learning organization
revisions of human capital theory, by exposing the lack of sustained relations
between continued learning and earning for most workers.
As the NALL survey confirms, corporate executives, professional
employees and service and industrial workers all now spend about the same
amount of time in work-related informal learning. Human capital theory
assumes that those who are more highly compensated are exercising greater
learning capacities. But these results suggest that, at least in terms
of informal learning time, the most poorly paid employees are devoting
just as much effort to work-related learning in general as the most highly
paid employers. Striking occupational class differences in the extent to
which people get to use this acquired knowledge in their actual jobs have
also been documented, especially in terms of the discrepancy between the
work-related informal learning and job-specific unpaid learning
of service and industrial workers (see Livingstone, 1997). The fact is
that large and growing numbers of people do substantial amounts of work-related
informal learning throughout their working lives. But many either do not
have the opportunity to apply this acquired knowledge in their paid workplaces
or, if they can apply it informally, to be recognized and rewarded for
doing so. The promoters of learning organizations have got it backwards.
The challenge is not to facilitate more collaborative learning but to establish
fair incentive structures, especially among service and industrial workers,
to use and compensate the extensive amount of individual and collective
informal learning that is already occurring.
Growing proportions of people who have invested many years
of their lives in acquiring advanced formal educational qualifications
are unable to obtain commensurate jobs, as I have documented here in terms
of the performance gap. The growing proportions of underemployed youths
generally continue to try to realize their extensive educational investments
in the job market, and even continue to make more such investments. The
prospect of losing these investments through not being able to use them
in the job market is again increasing (Krahn 1997). But, more generally,
most people find diminishing credibility in human capital advocates' arguments
that those with the most formal education are still likely to get good
jobs, when they see so few of these to go around.
All of these efforts to repair human capital theory remain
in jeopardy because of their failure to account for the growing general
gap between peoples' increasing learning efforts and knowledge bases on
the one hand, and the diminishing numbers of commensurate jobs to apply
their increasing knowledge investments on the other. The cumulative evidence
on the massive extent of both people's learning activities and their underemployment
represents a major contradiction for human capital theory. Appeals to an
immanent knowledge economy have limited credibility for those living in
the education-jobs gap. The "learning for earning" thesis is increasingly
reduced to a strategy for relative individual advantage and decreasing
marginal returns. Human capital theory appears to have reached its limit
as a rationale for increased social investment in education.
THEORIES OF KNOWLEDGE AND WORK
|It is interesting to note that human capital theory is
in accord with the Marxist labor theory of value on the recognition of
labor as the primary source of wealth in capitalist society. From 18th
century physiocrats who imputed primary value creating capacity to the
land up to contemporary monetarists, dominant economic theories have tended
to diminish the role of labor in the creation of wealth. The limits of
human capital theory, as suggested above, are its fixation with individual
market transactions and blindness of macro-level underemployment. In Marxist
terms, human capital theory is preoccupied with value creation while
ignoring value realization. That is, human capital theory insists
on the importance of investment in education, the imparting of value to
the future laborer, but does not directly address the fact that this embodied
value must be harnessed in the production of goods or services by labor
power in order for the human capital invested to be realized. It is precisely
this failure of value realization that constitutes the education-jobs gap.11
A more adequate account of education-employment relations
lies in understanding the basic social relationships that drive capitalist
production systems and related learning practices. These relations are
complex, contradictory and dynamic, in contrast to the simple, linear and
immutable notions of more education for more skilled work and more earnings
that underlie human capital theory.
I will suggest that conflict theories generally offer
better insights into both workplace change and differences in people's
development and uses of workplace-related knowledge and skill. Elsewhere
I have critically reviewed contemporary Marxist and Weberian theories of
education-work relations, most notably Bowles and Gintis' (1976) correspondence
thesis, as well as Carnoy and Levin's (1985) contradictory demands thesis
and Randall Collins' (1979) credential society thesis. I have then drawn
on these perspectives to propose a more specific conflict theory of the
education-jobs gap (Livingstone, 1999, pp. 173-225). This theory focuses
primarily on class-based conflicts among employers, professional-managerial
salaried employees, wage workers and the unemployed over knowledge and
work requirements in advanced capitalist societies.
The strategies and structures of capital-labor relations
in immediate production continue to be more contingent on the productivity/profitability
of labor than they are on either capitalist control of labor or imperative
and rapid skill upgrading. In view of the otherwise opposed interests of
labor for democratic access to forces of knowledge production and of capital
for privatized and hierarchical reproduction of commodified relations of
knowledge production, educational systems are likely to assume a polytechnical
character rather than a strictly vocational one; they are also likely to
remain only loosely related to present capitalist production requirements.
In any case, it is increasingly clear that class relations in education
are mediated substantially beyond relations in production while class-based
demands also interact with other social demands in the politics of education.
Class effects in the knowledge production, governance and learning process
spheres of education, therefore, cannot be accurately read off or derived
from capitalist production relations. The education-jobs gap is likely
to be class-specific in each of the several dimensions of under-employment,
with variations subject to continuing contestations between major class
groups across time and space.
From this general perspective, educational change is hardly
an inevitable rational progression expressing the structural imperatives
of capitalist production, nor is it merely the contingent expression of
particular class conflicts. Rather, educational change is the indeterminate
result of confrontations and negotiations between historically specific
groups of class-based agents simultaneously constituted in gender and ethnic
terms. These confrontations are grounded in different but mutually-conditioned
logics and the negotiations are mediated through previously institutionalized
educational forms. We continue to make our own histories but in contested
contexts not of our own choosing. This is the "contested subordination"
perspective on learning-work relations that I propose as both theoretically
coherent and empirically verifiable.12
In any private market-based economy, the sweep of change
is continual. Inter-firm competition, technological innovation, and negotiations
between employers and employees over working conditions, benefits and knowledge
requirements all lead to incessant shifts in the numbers and types of jobs
available. Population growth cycles, modified household needs and new legislative
regulations also frequently serve to alter the supply of labor. At the
same time, popular demand for general education and specialized training
increases cumulatively as people generally seek more knowledge, different
skills and added credentials in order to live and work in such a changing
So, there are always "mismatches" between employers' aggregate
demand and requirements for employees on the one hand, and the aggregate
supply and qualifications of job seekers on the other. The accelerating
productivity of capitalist enterprises regularly throws workers into unemployment,
reproducing the most evident part of the reserve army of labor. In societies
with liberal democratic state regimes that acclaim the right to equal educational
opportunity, and with labor markets in which both employers and job seekers
make mainly individual employment choices, the dominant historical tendency
has been for the supply of educationally qualified job seekers to exceed
the demand for any given type of job. These same dynamics also generate
formal underqualification of some workers, particularly older employees
who have had few incentives to upgrade their skills and credentials.
In capitalist societies, as both Marxist class theorists
and some Weberian social closure theorists (e.g. Murphy, 1988) recognize,
the principal powers of definition and exclusion have accrued to those
with the ownership of substantial private property. These powers generally
have been accorded greater protection than other social rights by the legal
and coercive sanctions of the state. This "deep structure of closure" (pp.
65-70), as Murphy calls it, and the related control of material resources
by large capitalist owners and top private and state sector managers, profoundly
limits the clear public expression of contending claims of competence,
skill or value by those not allied with the interests of property owners.
As Murphy (1988, p. 182) argues, more derivative and contingent forms of
social closure such as those attempted by members of occupational specializations,
have owed much of their success to their extent of complementarity with
this deep structure. But established power structures should not be reified;
they are continually subject to resistance and change, especially in response
to the collective actions of well organized subordinate social groups.
Within this context, as neo-Weberian status competition
theorists like Collins have illustrated, people in various occupational
specialties manage to aggrandize the knowledge required for their own work
and justify greater associated earnings than other workers through particularly
certified credentials. Also, as Bourdieu and Passeron (1977) and Bernstein
(1996) have best documented from dominant class standpoints, more general
conflicts occur through the schools in every generation over the appropriate
cultural content of knowledge. The traditional distinction between "intellectual"
and "manual" labor may be better understood in terms of these position-shaping
initiatives by mobilized occupational groups, in de facto alliances with
capitalist class groups, than as accurate characterizations of deficient
actual skills or learning capacities of manual workers; many working class
people continue to resist such pejorative distinctions both at school and
work (see Willis 1977; Browne 1981; Curtis et al. 1992).
On all of the above grounds, we should expect to find
differential under-employment throughout the active labor force, but especially
among those with the least economic and political power to define the appropriate
requirements for their jobs or prospective jobs. In particular, we should
expect to find higher levels of underemployment of their working knowledge
among those in lower class positions, as well as among those social groupings
whose general subordination in society has put them at a disadvantage in
labor market negotiations, especially younger people, ethnic and racial
minorities and women.
From this general theoretical perspective on the education-jobs
gap, I have generated predictions about class-specific differences in the
extent of under-employment on both the performance gap and five other dimensions
of underemployment. Preliminary empirical tests support all of these predictions
(see Livingstone, 1999, pp. 200-225). Here I will summarize the predictions
and findings regarding the performance gap.
AND THE PERFORMANCE GAP
Table 5 Class
Position by Performance Gap, Ontario Labor Force, 1984-1996
|The central congruent general prediction of both the
neo-Marxist structural conflict theory of Carnoy and Levin (1985) and the
neo-Weberian status competition theory of Collins (1979) is that the performance
gap is likely to increase. In neo-Marxist terms this is because of the
irresolvable contradiction between popular demand for more advanced education
and the more restrictive requirements of hierarchical capitalist production
systems; in Collins' neo-Weberian terms, it is because more and more specialized
occupational groups try to impose elaborate credential regulations beyond
the knowledge actually needed to do their types of jobs. I concur with
both of these general arguments. As noted above, empirical research strongly
suggests that there is a large and increasing performance gap in
the workplaces of most advanced industrial market economies, in spite of
gradual increases in technical skill requirements.
In class-specific terms, any performance gap that might
exist for owners is likely to be quite small since business owners generally
directly control their own working conditions. Once again, any discrepancies
between their performance capacities and their chances to apply them are
likely to be related to their enterprises' extent of control of market
entry requirements, so corporate executives should have the lowest performance
underemployment rates and the self-employed should have the highest among
the owner classes. "Middle class" employees, including managers and professionals,
are likely to experience at least moderate underemployment of their work-related
knowledge, with the credentialized knowledge they have acquired to obtain
their jobs in competitive labor markets sometimes exceeding what they actually
need to perform them. Industrial and service workers, however, are likely
to have considerably higher levels of performance underemployment. With
the growing surplus of qualified job seekers in contemporary economies,
workers generally have been unable either to effectively contest employers'
hiring prerogatives to select more highly qualified applicants than jobs
really need, or to prevent employers from keeping actual skill performance
requirements substantially beneath workers' own knowledge capacities. Indeed,
performance underemployment may increase in many working class jobs at
the same time as the physical intensity of their workloads also increases.
The general Ontario profiles of performance underemployment
by class position are summarized in Table 5, again based on Berg's initial
GED-based estimates of the performance gap. As predicted, corporate executives
have the lowest underemployment rates of all class groups; small employers
and the self-employed have medium underemployment rates consistent with
their lesser control of market entry. Managers and professionals exhibit
similar medium levels of performance underemployment which are either slightly
less than or overlap with the under-employment rates of small employers
and the self-employed. Again as predicted and most significantly, service
and industrial workers of all skill levels consistently experience higher
levels of performance underemployment than all other class groups.
Whatever GED-based measure is used, those employed in working class jobs
are significantly more likely than those in most other class positions
to have educational credentials that exceed the skill requirements of their
Younger people tend to experience higher levels of performance
under-employment; those aged 18 to 24 are twice as likely to be overqualified
for their jobs as those over 55. Both trend analysis and cross-sectional
comparisons of age cohorts suggest that differences in performance underemployment
between the working class and other classes are widening over time. For
example, we can compare professional employees and skilled industrial workers,
the working class group that has historically had the greatest organizational
capacity to control their conditions of employment. While performance underemployment
rates for professional employees remain fairly constant around 50 percent
across age cohorts and over time, the rates for industrial workers increase
from less than 50 percent among skilled industrial workers over 55 years
of age to over 80 percent among workers aged 25 to 34. In contrast to post-industrial
rhetoric about greater worker participation in the social division of labor,
these findings indicate that the working class has been losing control
over job performance requirements rather than gaining it in recent generations.
samples of corporate executives (N=727)
|Total labor force
OISE Survey of Educational Issues Data Archive.
|The most discernible sex differences in performance underemployment
are among corporate executives. Corporate executives and skilled industrial
workers are the two class positions that have remained almost exclusive
male preserves as women increased their participation very significantly
in all other forms of employment. The few women who have made it into the
skilled trades appear to have been treated fairly, at least in the sense
of not having to obtain higher qualifications than male tradespersons.
But women who have made it into the board room have generally been extremely
well qualified and remain much more likely to be underemployed than male
executives. Visible minorities are somewhat more likely to experience performance
underemployment than other ethnic groups, a difference that applies across
all class positions.
Overall, the performance gap findings suggest that the
current organization of paid work wastes a substantial amount of peoples'
work-related knowledge across the class structure. While Collins (1979)
does not offer quantitative estimates, his case studies strongly suggest
high levels of performance underemployment among professionals. The present
analysis indicates that there is an even greater waste of relevant knowledge
in the working class, where the performance gap is now also increasing
|The image of contemporary society inherent in post-industrial/knowledge
economy and human capital theories proves illusory. While an aggregate
upgrading of the technical skills needed for job performance is gradually
occurring, our collective acquisition of work-related knowledge and credentials
is far outpacing this incremental shift. Such underemployment is scarcely
recognized in post-industrial and human capital theories, beyond the "frictional
adjustment" that is regarded as natural in market economies.
The organizational structures of the workplace and the
strategies used by employers and employees vary quite widely across current
industrial market economies. There is nothing inevitable about development
of the technical and social divisions of labor. The employment contract
can be modified in various ways to include or exclude the knowledge and
skills of the non-owning classes. The North American model of "managerial
capitalism" is generally regarded as being quite exclusionary of the knowledge
and skills of operative workers. While such models may well be gross simplifications
of actual conditions, the high levels of performance underemployment documented
here among the North American labor force are consistent with this model.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the connections between knowledge
and work are mediated by the individual and collective negotiating powers
of those in different class, gender, race and generational groups. Conflicts
of interest between haves and have-nots need to be recognized as a starting
point for understanding changes and continuities in the education-jobs
The underlying dynamics of capitalist production-- inter-firm
competition, the struggles between owners and employees over profits and
wages, and the consequent revisions of production techniques--continually
lead to changes in the specific organization of paid work, and provoke
workers to continually learn more in order to be able to adapt to these
changes and keep their jobs or try to find new ones. This new and different
job-related information is not necessarily more complex or more advanced
knowledge; much of what is occurring is job enlargement with increasing
numbers and intensity of tasks, rather than job enrichment using more comprehensive
knowledge systems in more discretionary ways. The education-jobs gap is
primarily related not to educational deficiencies but to "job churning."
In particular, under-employment of highly qualified workers is a systemic
problem which is far more than an issue of "frictional adjustment."
The analyses presented here suggest that there has been
extensive and increasing underemployment of the working knowledge of many
well-qualified people throughout the past generation, especially in North
America. The class analysis indicates that most objective dimensions of
underemployment are lowest among corporate owners and professional-managerial
employees, and most prevalent among the working class. The working knowledge
of the North American working class is definitely underused in contemporary
workplaces. Additional analyses indicate that underemployment is often
greatest among young people and visible minorities, and sometimes among
women; all these factors tend to heighten class differences in underemployment.
Conversely, underemployment is generally lower among unionized workers
than nonunion workers. All of these findings are consistent with a general
conflict theory of underemployment of working knowledge that identifies
the highest incidence with the least powerful social groups.
Further empirical research with different populations
is clearly needed. But further studies in other times and places should
keep in mind that these predictions refer to relative rather than
absolute levels of underemployment. If the global capitalist economy enters
another period of expansion, global levels of unemployment could fall and
levels of underemployment on other dimensions could also fall because of
enhanced bargaining power on the job for workers. In other words, under-employment
is not a evolutionary phenomenon that irreversibly grows. It is continually
subject to change on all dimensions through further contestation by various
social groups. But as long as the underlying structure of power is grounded
in capitalist property relations, working class people will remain most
likely to experience objective underemployment.
Even if one is highly underemployed in objective terms,
it may not be very useful to take critical action in response to this condition
or even to recognize its existence, unless some real vehicle for
practical effect is clearly available. Educational upgrading has been a
practical individual response because it has improved relative chances
of getting a decent job. But at the same time it has stimulated credential
inflation and the impoverishment of relatively less credentialed workers
who get squeezed out of the jobs race. Ultimately, educational upgrading
becomes a less and less viable means of coping with objective underemployment.
But all subjective and objective aspects of the education-jobs gap continue
to be negotiated social relationships, subject to collective actions that
can close or expand the gap fairly quickly. As the value of individual
educational upgrading depreciates, the attraction of more collective alternatives,
particularly alternative ways of organizing work, could well be increasing
(see Livingstone, 1999, pp. 226-275).
|1. For my own early critique of the "post-industrial"
perspective, Porter's rejoinder and my reply, see Livingstone (1972).
2. See Stehr (1994) for a recent revisionist overview
of post-industrial/ knowledge society theories which attempts to
respond to some critiques and recuperate the concept by formulating an
explicitly non-evolutionary version which stresses its theoretical elasticity
and transitional character, and with decidedly less emphasis on economic
aspects of social relations than its predecessors.
3. For a detailed presentation of empirical evidence relating
to each of these dimensions of paid work relations, see Livingstone (1999,
4. Informal learning includes
any learning activities which we engage in, on our own and outside of the
formal curricula of institutions providing educational programs, courses
or workshops, in order to acquire understanding, know-ledge or skill. Informal
learning is undertaken individually and collectively without externally
imposed criteria or the presence of an institutionally authorized instructor.
5. The National Research
network for New Approaches to Lifelong Learning (NALL) at OISE/UT has been
funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
(SSHRC) to identify the extent of adult learning, the existence of social
barriers to learning, and more effective means of linking learning with
work. The NALL survey of adults' current learning activities is the first
large-scale survey in Canada and the most extensive one anywhere to date
to attend to the full array of adults' learning activities, including informal
learning as well as formal schooling and further education courses, and
work activities, including community volunteer work and housework as well
as paid employment. A representative telephone survey of 1562 Canadian
adults was conducted for NALL by the Institute for Social Research at York
University between June 6 and November 8, 1998. Respondents were asked
about all aspects of learning and work, but with a special focus on informal
learning. Those interested in further details about the interview schedule
or the specific findings may visit the NALL website: http://nall.oise.utoronto.ca.
6. For detailed information on these surveys, see Davis
and Smith (1994) and Livingstone, Hart and Davie (1997), respectively.
7. The specific estimates
of GED levels used by the NORC in all its national surveys between 1972
and 1990, were developed by Lloyd Temme (1975) using the 1967 Dictionary
of Occupational titles and the April, 1971 Current Population Survey. Burris
(1983) used the NORC 1977-78 survey and these GED scores. I have used the
1972-90 surveys and the same GED scores for the estimates of the U.S. performance
gap in the present study.
8. I am indebted to the late
Alf Hunter for his generous provision of this coding scheme prior to publication
of his own findings and his untimely passing.
9. Halaby (1994) offers a critique of GED-based measures
of skill mismatch. He also presents an analysis of skill mismatch based
on an alternative self-report question from the 1973 and 1977 Quality of
Employment Surveys in the U.S. These surveys found a skill underuse rate
of about 30 percent of the workforce (52). We have replicated the same
question in the 1994 and 1996 OISE surveys and found rates of just over
40 percent; see Livingstone, Hart and Davie (1997, 73).
10. According to the OECD (1996), CEO:factory worker wage
ratios for some relevant countries were as follows: U.S. 120; Canada 36;
UK 33; Germany 21; Japan 16.
11. I am indebted to my colleague Wally Seccombe for developing
12. This theoretical perspective on education-work relations
is most decidedly not, as Rikowski (1996, 435) erroneously claims, an attempt:
"to go back and rescue the old reproduction paradigm, and in doing so .
. . attempting to bring an old discredited educational Marxist tradition
back to life. . . . New directions. . . will be smothered by attempts (as
in Livingstone) to resuscitate the old reproductionist perspective." I
view Bowles and Gintis' (1976) as well as Althusser's (1971) reproductionist
perspectives as provocative but fundamentally flawed. In fact, my theoretical
intent is to help to resuscitate the much older tradition of recognition
of the contradictory relations between the multifaceted development
of laborers and the rigid capitalist forms of divisions of labor that Marx
observed. Generations of educational Marxist scholars who have focused
on superstructural analyses have served to smother this older tradition.
While Rikowski himself claims to have developed a Marxist theory of the
social production of labor-power, nowhere in his own extensive overview
of Marxist educational theory since 1976 does he intimate any recognition
these contradictory relations or of the associated social problem of underemployment.
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