College-educated workers ages 25 to 32 make about $17,500 more per year than high school graduates in the same age group, the Pew Research Center says.
Young adults who are college graduates and working full-time have a median income of $45,500 compared to $28,000 for high school graduates and $30,000 for young adults workers with some college education, according to a Pew report, “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College,” released earlier this year.
College-educated young adults also are much less likely to be out of work, with a 3.8 percent unemployment rate compared to a 12.2 percent jobless rate for workers age 25 to 32 with only a high school education, according to the study.
The pay gap between college-educated and high school-educated young adults was smaller in previous generations, the report said. In 1979, the average high school graduate made about 77 percent of what a college graduate made, compared to 62 percent today.
“As a result of these shifts, young adults today have more unequal earnings between education levels than their same-aged peers did in earlier times — mirroring the broader increase in income inequality that has become one of the defining features of American life,” the report said.
For young adults, the long-term economic benefits of a college education “clearly” outweigh the financial costs of obtaining that schooling, according to Pew’s findings.
In-state residents at four-year colleges are paying $8,893 in tuition and fees for the 2013-14 school year, an increase of 2.9 percent, according to a College Board report last October. Student debt totals $1.2 trillion.
“In spite of rising tuition rates at both public and private colleges, most college graduates agree that college has paid off,” the Pew report said.