Census: Education Level Main Factor in Determining Income

A new Census Bureau study shows how education levels had more of an effect on earnings over a 40-year period than any other factor, including gender and race.

The study, Education And Synthetic Work-Life Earnings, highlighted data that was compiled from 2006 to 2008 and found the difference between students who earned a professional degree, such as a master’s or doctorate, and who dropped out of high school was about $72,000 dollars – roughly five times the annual difference of $13,000 between genders.

“It has long been clear that higher education is a boon to both the individual and society as a whole,” explains Mark Smith, National Education Association senior policy analyst.  “In addition to the individual benefits, one only needs to look to an increased tax base, and the countless benefits brought to society through higher education.”

The study was conducted as officials examine the importance of students getting a higher education, factoring in concerns such as higher tuition costs and new graduates finding it tougher to locate jobs.

Although education levels were the most prominent factor, race and gender greatly influenced the findings. The highest earning demographic of participants in the study were White men, who out-earned every other demographic at every educational level below a master’s degree, while Asian American men earned the highest amount at the professional degree level. One staggering statistic is that White males who received a professional degree earned $2.4 million more than Hispanic women who were at the same educational level over a 40-year period.

The study also magnified the importance of quality English classes and English-learning classes being placed into every school. People who spoke English as a second language saw an annual decrease in their earnings and people who spoke English “very well” earned nearly $1,000 less than workers who spoke only English.

“The knowledge of languages other than the one you were brought up in is an incredible assistance to broadening one’s outlook,” said Smith.

While quality English and English-learning classes in schools have value, Smith cautions that an emphasizing “English-only” in schools would be hurtful to students.

One other positive finding from the study is the dramatic increase in educational levels over the past 70 years. As of 2008, 85 percent of adults 25 and older received at least a high school diploma, a near 25% rise from 1940.  Smith hopes this trend continues in order to create a safer and more stable environment where people can, “explore the richness of the human experience.”