In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, authors David Wessel and Stephanie Banchero discuss a growing trend of young people opting to either skip their college education or settle for a two-year course in the service industry. Apart from citing common reasons such as the grim job market, the growing costs of school, and higher entry wage for the service sector compared to white collar jobs, I believe what the authors have overlooked are the sociological reasons.


For a long time, we believed we should have more education than our parents do. But this might not be true anymore as students today may want more from a job than just money.

Our generation, those who were born between 1980 and 1999, are known as the “Echo Boomers”. We are the millennial generation parented by Baby Boomers and grand-parented by the World War II generation. According to Political Scientist Ronald Inglehart, we have very different values in terms of education.

Based on Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s theory on Hierarchy of Needs, Inglehart asserted that the WWII generation, our grandparents, sought security, so they made sure to push their children to pursue all the education they could. On the other hand, our parents (the Baby Boomer generation) having their security needs fulfilled, had a real chance of finishing college and getting more education than their parents. Plus, higher education was much cheaper back then.

Echo Boomers, as a generation, are growing up in a different kind of prosperity. We are inundated with alternatives to a traditional 9-5 job. I’ve seen peers, ages 17-26, take unconventional routes through their educational and professional careers. Some of them switched majors, while others developed a completely different career outside of their education. These changing routes show that young people want something more from college than just a straight four-year track towards a major.

The trend may indicate that the current educational system is too rigid for our generation, or that its progression is not as fast as we want it to be.