Rising Gap between High School and College Graduates

Association of Educators
February 14, 2014 — 926 views  

A study involving news reports, government data and other reliable sources has suggested that most college graduates are presently under employed in the United States. The study also says the majority of college grads are currently hired for jobs that are much below their qualifications.

Amidst this study, another report has come out that states that the value of a degree earned in college is much higher today than it was around a century ago. The findings by the Pew Research Center reveal that the earnings gap between millennials with a high school diploma and millennials with a bachelor’s degree is wider today than compared to prior generations. 

A look at the past

Considering the millennials between the ages of 25 and 32, the average earnings for college degree holders working full time is around $17,500 higher annually compared to those having only earned a high school diploma. This gap has been widening on a steady basis for every successive generation since the second half of the 20th century. In 1986, the gap was around $14,000. The gap in 1979 was far less, standing at $9,690. The gap among millennials was almost double for people of 1965 when it fell under a mere $7,500 (figures mentioned here are according to 2012 dollars).

Currently, high school graduates earn around 62 percent of the amount earned by today's college graduates. This figure was around 80 percent in 1965. It is no doubt this gap has increased quite considerably over the years, and still many college graduates today are underemployed. The author of one report said not only are the earnings improving for graduates out of colleges but high school graduates are facing a harder time.

Today's high school graduates not working hard enough?

Executive Vice President for Pew Research Center's Special Project, Paul Taylor, believes that the main reason for this growing gap is not because recent college graduates are doing a much better job than the ones previous generations. It is because having only a high school diploma is less valuable today than it was in previous years. He added that the present economy doesn’t have as much opportunity to offer people who have not pursued higher education as in the past. 


Association of Educators