Overeducated and unhappy? Evaluation of the consequences of overeducation

Impact on job satisfaction, subjective wellbeing, and civic and political integration

Carmen Voces and Miguel Caínzos, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela
Project selected in the Call to support social research projects: vocational training, early school leaving and job insecurity

In Spain, as in other advanced countries, a significant number of workers have a higher education level than that required by the occupation that they perform, i.e., they are overeducated. It is often said that this has negative consequences for the economy and for society overall, as well as for the overeducated workers themselves. We have put this expectation to the test in various areas and the results obtained suggest that overeducation appreciably reduces job satisfaction, but it does not seem to have a negative impact on personal wellbeing in general nor on civic and political integration.
Key points
  • 1
       In Spain we find that around 20% of workers are performing a job whose educational requirements are lower than their education level, i.e., they are overeducated workers.
  • 2
       Being overeducated reduces job satisfaction. More specifically, if job satisfaction is measured on a scale of 0 a 10, overeducation carries with it a reduction of between two and three tenths. A similar reduction is observed when, instead of focusing on overall job satisfaction, the focus is placed on satisfaction with particular aspects such as activities carried out and the feeling of fulfilment at work.
  • 3
       As for life satisfaction and feeling of happiness (in other words, subjective wellbeing), the results seem to indicate that overeducation has no impact on this area or that, if it does have one, it is very modest.
  • 4
       Overeducation does not in any way reduce the civic and political integration of those experiencing it. Specifically, it does not bear any negative effect on their political participation, their satisfaction with how democracy is working, their trust in the institutions, nor their feeling of political efficacy.

The impact of the experience of overeducation is highly unequal in the different aspects that we have studied. Overeducation reduces job satisfaction, it has a minor (or even negligible) effect on subjective wellbeing and it does not undermine the level of civic and political integration of overeducated workers.

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