Census Bureau: Education is Still King in Deciding Lifelong Earnings

You'll likely make much more money in your career with a university degree

The Census Bureau, through a recent study, found that education has the greatest impact on lifelong earnings than any other demographic aspect, such as gender or race.

Workers who have professional degrees will generally make much more than those with 8th grade educations.

Recent articles have cast doubt on the usefulness of an expensive university degree and highlighted runaway costs, but education is still king, according to the Census Bureau’s findings.

Higher levels of education allow people access to more specialized jobs that command greater pay.

Median pay for all Americans in 2008, the year of the study, was $27,455, but those with an 8th grade education earned a paltry $10,271 on average while those with a Bachelors and Doctorate degree earned $42,783 and $73,575 respectively.

Gender and race apparently had an impact as well. Compared to the median pay of $27,455, males earned more than females, $36,422 vs $20,050. Whites and Asians’ median pay ($31,461 and $30,265 respectively) exceeded those of blacks ($21,239) and Hispanics ($19,934).

White males had higher earnings than any other group at every education level, excluding those with a master’s degree, which was led by Asian males, and those having a professional degree, where again, Asian males were statistically similar to white males.

While race and gender mattered, education had the greatest effect, with five times the impact of gender.  Thus, a comparison of  annual earnings between a professional degree and an eighth grade education was about $72,000/yr vs $13,000/yr.

Women in the most economically advantaged race groups also earn less than men in the most disadvantaged race groups. For example, a white female with master’s degree is expected to earn $2.4 million over a 40-year work-life. By contrast, a Hispanic male with a master’s degree is expected to earn $2.8 million.

Also, location affected earnings, with higher earnings in the Pacific states and New England, and lowest earnings in East South Central states. For more on the study, go here.