A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau underscores the economic value of education: data show that over the course of their working lives, adults are likely to have higher earnings the more educated they are.
As the chart illustrates, high school dropouts have the lowest expected lifetime earnings compared with workers at all other levels of educational attainment. Professional and doctoral degree holders have the highest. And financial gains are predicted at each successive level of schooling completed in between.
Educational attainment alone does not determine an individual’s earnings potential over his or her lifetime, however; these estimates are group averages that assume full-time, year-round employment throughout a 40-year work life. Other factors—including occupation, field of study, and work experience and continuity—may significantly affect a specific worker’s income. For a more detailed discussion of earnings for college graduates, see “College at work: Outlook and earnings for college graduates” elsewhere in this issue of the
Occupational Outlook Quarterly.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, “The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings,” Current Population Reports, P23-210, by Jennifer Cheeseman Day and Eric C. Newburger, available via a link at
www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/educ-attn.html. Data are from March supplements to the Current Population Survey, 1998-2000.