Education Still Biggest Factor in Your Salary

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – As the new school year starts around the country, it’s time for another reminder of just how important an education really is.

This latest lesson comes from the Census Bureau, which on Thursday released its Education and Synthetic Work-Life Earnings report, which assesses the economic value of an education. The report looked at the earnings power for Americans ages 25 to 64 with various levels of educational attainment, from middle-school dropouts to those with doctorate degrees. And those income levels run a wide range: Those who didn’t even make it to high school have a median income of just more than $10,000 a year, while those with a bachelor’s degree pull down close to $43,000 and those with professional degrees earn close to $80,000 a year.

The report also looks at the impact of a number of other demographic factors, including race and gender. And the news, admittedly, isn’t good. Non-Hispanic whites have a median salary of $31,461, versus just $21,239 for African-Americans and just $19,934 for Hispanics.

Meanwhile, the median salary for men is more than $36,000, versus just more than $20,000 for women. Indeed, a recent Georgetown University study found that women needed an extra degree just to catch up to the salaries of their male counterparts.

Still, it’s clear that educational attainment is still far and away the biggest determinant of our long-term earning power. And the Census Bureau report is hardly the first to take a hard look at the correlation between education and income. A study released in August by the American Institutes for Research found that college students who drop out before getting their degrees can expect to lose out on $7,700 of income per year. And kids who drop out of high school are a lot more likely to end up poorer than their parents.

In other words, kids: Stay in school.