A “college degree is key to economic opportunity,” concludes a new report by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Four-year college graduates earn 84 percent more over a lifetime than those with only a high school diploma, a rise from 75 percent in 1999, the study found.
However, earnings depend not just on education but on the occupational field. The registered nurse with an associate degree is likely to earn more than the social worker with a bachelor’s.
This graphic shows the earnings overlap relative to the median lifetime earnings of $2,868,000 for workers with a bachelor’s degree. It shows 28.2 percent of workers with an associate degree match the earnings of the median four-year graduate.
Women earn about 25 percent less than men at each educational level. As a result, the average man with “some college” earns as much as the average woman with a bachelor’s degree.
Whites earn more than other races with the same educational attainment until the postgraduate level, where Asian-Americans earn the most.
“Postsecondary education has become the new gateway to the middle class and one of the most important economic issues of our time,” the report concludes.