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March 28, 2005
A College Degree Boosts Average Earnings by $23K

New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that it pays to get a college education.

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Adults with bachelor’s degrees in 2004 earned an average of $51,206 a year, while those with high school diplomas earned $27,915, the Census Bureau reports. Workers with advanced degrees made an average of $74,602. Those without a high school diploma averaged $18,734.

In addition, 85 percent of those age 25 or older reported completing at least high school, while 28 percent attained at least a bachelor’s degree — both record highs.

The Census Bureau has made the data available for downloading from its website. (See the links below.)

Other highlights for the population 25 years and over in 2004:

  • Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska had the highest proportions of people with at least a high school diploma, all around 91 percent.
  • The District of Columbia’s population had the highest proportion with a bachelor’s degree or higher at 45.7 percent, followed by Massachusetts (36.7 percent), Colorado (35.5 percent), New Hampshire (35.4 percent) and Maryland (35.2 percent).
  • At the regional level, the Midwest had the highest proportion of high school graduates (88.3 percent), followed by the Northeast (86.5 percent), the West (84.3 percent) and the South (83.0 percent).
  • The Northeast had the highest proportion of college graduates (30.9 percent), followed by the West (30.2 percent), the Midwest (26.0 percent) and the South (25.5 percent).
  • High school graduation rates for women continued to exceed those of men, 85.4 percent and 84.8 percent, respectively. On the other hand, men continued to have a higher proportion of their population with a bachelor’s degree or higher (29.4 percent compared with 26.1 percent).
  • Non-Hispanic whites had the highest proportion with a high school diploma or higher (90.0 percent), followed by Asians (86.8 percent), African-Americans (80.6 percent) and Hispanics (58.4 percent).
  • Asians had the highest proportion with a bachelor’s degree or higher (49.4 percent), followed by Non-Hispanic whites (30.6 percent), African-Americans (17.6 percent) and Hispanics (12.1 percent).
  • The proportion of the foreign-born population with a high school diploma (67.2 percent) was lower than that of the native population (88.3 percent). However, the percentages with a bachelor’s degree or more were not statistically different (27.3 percent and 27.8 percent, respectively).

The data on educational trends and attainment levels are shown by characteristics such as age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, marital status, occupation, industry, nativity and, if foreign-born, when they entered the country. The tables also describe the relationship between earnings and educational attainment. Although the statistics are primarily at the national level, some data are shown for regions and states.

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