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Feb
2014
14

Relationship Between Education Level, Wages Supports Need for Middle Class Career Opportunities

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A new report from the Pew Research Center shows that while ‘millennials’ are more educated than generations past, their median income, when adjusted for inflation, is no more than it was for the same age group in 1965.  The reason? A college degree allows you to earn more nowadays, but the value of a high school degree has significantly declined, cancelling out the wage gains.

While earnings of those with a college degree rose, the typical high school graduate’s earnings fell by more than $3,000, from $31,384 in 1965 to $28,000 in 2013. This decline, the Pew Research analysis found, has been large enough to nearly offset the gains of college graduates.

The steadily widening earnings gap by educational attainment is further highlighted when the analysis shifts to track the difference over time in median earnings of college graduates versus those with a high school diploma.

In 1965, young college graduates earned $7,499 more than those with a high school diploma. But the earnings gap by educational attainment has steadily widened since then, and today it has more than doubled to $17,500 among Millennials ages 25 to 32.

Economically, it is the story of a generation which has faced its own great depression and is reeling still. As study author Paul Taylor told the New York Times:

“That is one of the great economic stories of our era, which you could define as income inequality.  The leading suspects are the digital economy and the globalization of labor markets. Both of them place a higher premium on the knowledge-based part of the workforce and have the effect of drying up the opportunities for good middle-class jobs, particularly for those that don’t have an education.”

Recently, survey data showed guidance counselors and career advisors are actively dissuading young people from entering into apprenticeships. This is terribly unfortunate as a high-skilled trade is the exact type of career that can help the young, would-be middle class avoid the educational Bermuda triangle between a college degree and a high school diploma.

Taylor sums up the lack of quality opportunities that don’t fit either extreme of education level: “For today’s young adults, the only thing more expensive than going to college is not going to college.  And that sort of captures the dilemma that many find themselves in.”

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