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Update |Professor Andrew Sum, the original source for Romney’s claim, says the candidate and the news media have “misrepresented” his findings, and that fact-check site Politifact has “ignored” his corrections to their misleading report. Details here.

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In last night’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney made a claim that was specific, shocking, and false. “Fifty percent of college graduates this year,” he said, “can’t find work.”

There are a few ways of interpreting this statement, but none of them add up.

A study published this summer found that for college graduates under the age of 24, the unemployment rate for the twelve months ending in March of this year was 9.4%. More recent data for college grads aged 21-25 put the number at 6.8%.

So where did Romney’s 50% figure come from? An Associated Press article about a study of “underemployment” among college grads. This is going to take a little unpacking, so bear with me.

For the purposes of this AP story, a person was defined as “underemployed” if they were working in a job that required less education or fewer skills than they possess, were working part-time other than by choice, were working outside their field of expertise, or were working for less money than their similarly situated peers.

Even in good times, underemployment is common, and it’s particularly common among young college graduates — a job that doesn’t require a college degree may be a stepping-stone to one in the same field that does, for instance, or an internship or a part-time gig may get your foot in the door.

Among all employed young college graduates in 2007, before the current recession began, more than a third — 34.7% — were considered underemployed. In fact 26.8% of all working college grads, regardless of age, were underemployed that year, up from 25.2% in 2000. Underemployment is hardly ideal, in other words, but it’s not an acute crisis, it’s a long-term reality of our economy.

So what happened to underemployment rates in the current recession?

They went up, as you’d expect. In 2010, the most recent year for which data have been published, the underemployment rate for employed college grads under 25 was 39.1%. Unemployment for the same cohort stood at about 10%, which means the total for unemployment and underemployment combined was about 45%. According to the AP, that figure has risen to a bit over 53% in the last two years.

But there’s something very strange about the AP’s numbers. Take a look at this, from the AP story:

“About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed. … Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year.”

According to that passage, which has been repeated in a Politifact article on the Romney claim, underemployment among recent college grads stands at about 25% of the total group, as does unemployment. And from what I can see that doesn’t fit with the published data at all.

According to official government statistics, the unemployment rate for all Americans aged 20-24 currently stands at 13.9%, and hasn’t crossed the 15% threshold at any time in the last year. Unemployment among Americans aged 16-24 who have college degrees is, as you’d expect, considerably lower.

Unless I’m missing something huge, then, the government’s figures don’t back up the AP’s claim of 25% unemployment among recent college grads. Not even close.

So what’s the reality? As far as I can make out, among recent college graduates something like seven to ten percent — not fifty percent — “can’t find work.” A little less than half of the rest are “underemployed,” which means they’re doing jobs which aren’t a particularly good fit for their preferences and their degree. Most of those would be in a similar predicament if the economy was booming, but a significant minority, maybe ten or twenty percent of the total, have been dumped in that category by the downturn.

So there you go.

The University of California has agreed to make payments of tens of thousands of dollars each to the two dozen students hit with pepper spray at UC Davis last November, and to provide the students with individual written apologies from Davis chancellor Linda Katehi.

The settlement, filed in federal court this morning, provides for $30,000 payments to each of 21 named defendants, and a pool of $100,000 to be divided among other students who may come forward. Attorneys for the students will receive $250,000, and the ACLU will be given $20,000 to conduct a review of university policies on demonstrations.

The University of California had already spent more than $1 million to conduct its own investigations of the incident.

Although Lt. Commander John Pike, the primary sprayer, has been fired by UC Davis, and the campus police chief at the time of the incident later resigned, no officers or university administrators were charged with crimes as a result of the incident.

Chancellor Katehi survived a no-confidence vote by faculty early this year, and remains in office.

A startling number of the supposed terror plots broken up by US law enforcement officials since 2001 have been the result of goading by undercover cops, who’ve encouraged American Muslims — often young, often mentally unstable — to become involved in plans that had no chance of coming to fruition.

The latest example of this practice, and one of the most disturbing, comes out of Chicago, where FBI agents arresed 18-year-old Adel Daoud after he pressed the fake detonator on a fake car bomb they supplied him. According to court documents, and reporting from TPM, the FBI jihadists succeeded in getting Daoud to continue in the face of strong discouragement from his father, his former accomplice, and a local Muslim leader.

That’s right. The only “Muslims” encouraging Daoud in his ersatz plot were the phonies on the FBI payroll. Every actual Muslim in his life who got wind of the plan told him it was a lousy idea, and did their best to talk him out of it. And every time they did, the FBI was there to egg him on, rebut his concerns, and provide him with fake explosives.

And now an 18-year-old is facing decades in prison. For what?

Update: The crime the FBI talked Daoud into committing, and provided him with the means to commit, carries a life sentence. Daoud was seventeen years old when the FBI first contacted him.

Chilean student activists hold control of at least seven schools in the country’s capital this morning, following street protests that saw 75 arrested and three city buses burned.

The students are seeking to reverse the privatization of the country’s educational system that took place under dictator Augusto Pinochet, the Associated Press reports, rejecting government proposals to expand scholarships and lower loan rates as inadequate:

Mass demonstrations initially raised expectations for profound changes but more than a year after the first protests few students have seen any real benefits. Protesters say the system still fails families with poor quality public schools, expensive private universities, unprepared teachers and banks that make education loans at high interest rates most Chileans can ill afford…

Student leaders say real change will only come when the private sector is regulated and education is no longer a for-profit business…

“If we’re coming to this extreme, this level of anger among students, it’s because this government has been unable to have a dialogue and give us any answers,” said Gabriel Boric, the president of the University of Chile student federation.

Student leaders met on Tuesday with Santiago mayor Pablo Zalaquett, who has threatened protesters with the loss of their academic scholarships, but the talks broke down after only two hours.

Utterly bizarre, yet somehow unsurprising.

George Zimmerman, the self-proclaimed neighborhood watch leader who shot Trayvon Martin, has made his first public comments since the killing, on a website he’s created “to provide an avenue to thank my supporters personally” and solicit funds for legal and living expenses.

One page of that website is a photo album “dedicated to persons whom have displayed their support of Justice for all.” At the time of this writing, the album has just two pictures in it — an image of a poster reading “Justice for Zimmerman” and one of the words “Long Live Zimmerman” spray-painted in white on a red brick wall.

That’s right. George Zimmerman, the guy who once called the cops on a group of kids popping wheelies, is now thanking supporters for vandalizing a building on his behalf.

And it’s not just any building, as it turns out. This particular pro-Zimmerman graffiti was scrawled on the side of Ohio State University’s black cultural center last week, in an incident that the university’s president denounced as racially motivated.

Not long ago, Zimmerman’s defenders leaped to condemn Trayvon Martin over allegations that he once drew on a school locker. It’ll be interesting to see what — if anything — they have to say about Zimmerman’s public embrace of vandalism.

Update | As the blog Plunderbund notes, the “Long Live Zimmerman” graffiti went up on the night of April 4, the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination.

About This Blog

n7772graysmall is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

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