UMaine alumni more likely to have a job that requires a college degree in populated areas, study finds

Research from the University of Maine surveying over 1,000 UMaine alumni shows that individuals living in more populated areas are more likely to have a job that requires a college degree. 

The researchers examined the relationship between a region’s population size and the match of college-educated workers to jobs that require a degree through surveys of alumni from the University of Maine across the country. The survey respondents covered 47 of the 50 states and lived in areas that vary widely in population size from small counties in Alaska to very large regions such as Los Angeles. In addition to the impacts of population size on working in a job that requires a degree, the researchers also considered the influence of the type of business (e.g., nonprofit, government job) where the UMaine graduate works, whether the person has an advanced degree and indicators of individual skill.  

The results showed that UMaine alumni were more likely to work in a job that requires a college degree as the population size of the area where they lived grew. A 100,000-person increase in population size resulted in a 1.3% increase in the likelihood of a match between the person’s degree and job. Moreover, UMaine graduates with advanced degrees and people working for nonprofits and the government were more likely to have jobs that require a college degree. 

“Overall, we found that 84% of the UMaine graduates surveyed are in jobs that require a college degree and, as found in other research, degree match is very much influenced by where you live,” says Todd Gabe, co-author of the study and professor of economics UMaine. 

Gabe conducted the study with Mariya Pominova while she was a UMaine graduate student. Pominova now works at the Federal Reserve Board.

“What makes our study different from past research of U.S. college graduates was our ability to match our survey responses to the survey respondent’s GPAs during their time at the University of Maine,” says Pominova. “We find that, while GPA does have a large and significant effect on your likelihood of working a job that uses your college degree, the pervasive effect of the population size of where you live remains largely unchanged. You are more likely to work a job that uses your degree in a bigger place.”

The findings contribute to a growing body of research about the impacts of urbanization on the workforce. The researchers note that future studies could survey workers beyond a single university, consider the match between jobs and a person’s specific major and examine the differences in job match between rural and urban areas in finer detail.

The study was published in August 2022 in the journal Applied Economics Letters. 

Contact: Sam Schipani,