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Education and earnings: 1987.

In changing world, few things are as certain as that people with more education earn more money. The Bureau of the Census's most recent study of education background and economic status confirms that truism once again. "What's It Worth? Educational Background and Economic Status: Spring 1987," by Robert Kominski, presents information on the education and earnings of the population in the spring of 1987 and compares them with data from the spring of 1984. It includes data by educational level, race, sex, age, and major field of study.

All data are from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which provides detail not available in the Current Population Survey. Between spring 1984 and spring 1987, the percentage of the population with a degree beyond high school rose from 20.7 to 23.3. The average monthly earnings of those with a master's, bachelor's, or associate's degree rose significantly, but the income of those with no postsecondary degree or with a vocational degree did not increase after adjusting for inflation (see chart 1).

According to the report, "Most degrees beyond high school have significantly higher income and earnings associated with them than the next lower degree (except for the contrast of Ph.D. and professional degrees)." And high school graduates earn much more than high school drop-outs. "In short, the basic time-honored relationship between education and economic returns is verified by these data."

The differences in the earnings of men and women at each degree level are substantial, according to the survey (see chart 2).

The survey also showed, however, that there are notable differences between the sexes with respect to degree fields. While 23 percent of men with degrees held them in business, only 14 percent of women did. About 15 percent of all degrees held by men were in engineering, but just 1 percent of women with a degree were in this field. In contrast, 16 percent of women's degrees were in nursing, pharmacy or technical health, but only 2 percent of men's degrees were. And while 22 percent of all highest degrees for women were in education, just 7 percent of the men with degrees had them in this field. It should be noted that the survey group represents the population as a whole. Had only younger members of the population been surveyed, the results would have differed substantially. For example, more than half the accounting degrees and more than 10 percent of the engineering degrees awarded in 1987 were earned by women, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Earnings by major field for college graduates vary widely (see chart 3). Some of the largest average monthly incomes for bachelor's degree fields are reported by persons with training in economics, engineering, and mathematics and statistics, while those with degrees in home economics, education, and English have some of the lowest monthly averages.

"What's It Worth?" is based on data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). The report is available for $2 from the Statistical Information Staff, Population Division, Bureau of the Census, Washington, DC 20233. Make checks payable to Commerce-Census.
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Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Jun 22, 1991
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