“What level of education is required to do your work, and what level do people have? Both workers and employers are adaptable, and as long as the shortages and skills gaps are not too dramatic—and the ones we have really aren’t—that adaptability means we can continue to expand the economy,” says Michael Handel, a sociologist at Northeastern University who focuses on workforce issues and is a consultant to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.

On the other hand, a new OECD report says that unemployment in member countries is three times higher among people without postsecondary educations than for people with degrees, and that the difference in earnings between the highly educated and the less well educated has increased since 2008 from 75 percent to 90 percent.