The amount earned by college graduates versus that earned by high school graduates without further education continues to increase. People who hold bachelor’s degrees now earn 76 percent more than their peers without college degrees, reported the Census Bureau this week. The average college graduate made $40,478 in 1997, compared with an average wage of $22,895 for those with only a high school education.
“Even across gender and race, it’s still true that the higher your education level, the higher your earnings on average,” said Jennifer Day, chief of the Census Bureau’s education and social stratification branch. “There isn’t a group for which it doesn’t pay to go to school.”
The education and earnings of women have changed the most in recent years. Since 1979, more women than men have enrolled in college each year. The most significant difference, in recent years, according to Day, is that “they [women] are finishing.”
Increased job opportunities have raised the rate of return for women’s education. “In 1980, women with a college degree earned 57 percent more than women high school graduates,” said Carnevale. “In 1995, it had jumped to 87 percent, and in 1997 to 92 percent.”