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Why Go to College? Increasingly, Because You’ll Make More Money


Recent research from Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project shows that college, although more expensive than it was just a few years ago, is probably worth the money — especially if young workers want to make money and have careers they care about.


(Photo Credit: j.o.h.n. walker/Flickr)

According to Pew’s report:

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“On virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment — from personal earnings to job satisfaction to the share employed full time — young college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education. And when today’s young adults are compared with previous generations, the disparity in economic outcomes between college graduates and those with a high school diploma or less formal schooling has never been greater in the modern era.”

The report stems from a survey of 2002 adults, combined with analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. In short, it finds that workers aged 25 to 32, who have college degrees, earn an average of $17,500 more than workers in the same age group who only have high school diplomas.

In addition, the college graduates surveyed were more likely to report that their education was “very useful” in preparing them for their jobs and careers. Nine out of 10 said, despite the high cost of education, their college degrees had already paid off or would pay off in the future.

On the surface, median earnings for today’s young workers don’t look that much different from previous generations. But when you dig deeper, a different picture emerges. As Beckie Supiano points out at The Chronicle of Higher Education, although the median earnings of Millennial workers aren’t that much greater than those of Gen X and Baby Boomers at a similar age (roughly $35,000, annually), the earnings of workers with college degrees is actually a little higher than it was for those generations. Plus, workers without degrees are actually earning less.

In other words, despite high rates of unemployment even for college-educated workers, Millennials are probably still better off getting degrees. Which degree to get, and which school to get it from, is another question.

Tell Us What You Think

Did your degree affect your earnings? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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