The high value of a bachelor’s degree
Minnesota needs more people to earn degrees after high school — including associate degrees and vocational certificates. But in today’s economy, the post-secondary degree option that remains the surest pathway to economic security and a middle-class income is a bachelor’s degree.
Bachelor’s degrees are valued by employers and they pay off personally for the individuals who earn them. Higher wages, more stable employment and wider professional opportunities are some of the proven benefits of having a bachelor’s degree. Additional benefits include improved health and increased civic engagement. Here are some of the supporting facts.
A large majority of the new jobs created in the economy are going to those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Between 2010 and 2016, the U.S. economy created about 11 million new jobs. More than 8 million of those jobs went to people with a four-year degree or higher. Only 3 million of those new jobs went to those with a two-year degree or some college, and there has been virtually no job growth in the economy for those with a high school degree or less. And that trend continues strong: a year-over-year comparison shows that 83 percent of newly created jobs went to those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Americans with a bachelor’s degree earn significantly more than those with just a high school degree.
The median earnings for Minnesotans with a bachelor’s degree are 74 percent higher than for those with a high school degree and 43 percent higher than for those with an associate’s degree or some college. And according to national data, the earnings increase for a bachelor’s degree over a high school diploma is larger for African-Americans (67 percent) and Latinos (78 percent) than whites (59 percent). Nationally the earnings premium for a bachelor’s degree has been increasing. Median earnings for Americans aged 22-27 between 1990 and 1997 with a bachelor’s degree were 42 percent higher than those with just a high school degree. Two decades later (between 2010 and 2017) that gap grew to 59 percent. Economic studies have concluded that the investment in a four-year degree yields a better return than investing in the stock market or buying a home.
Americans with a bachelor’s degree are less likely to be unemployed.
That was clear during the Great Recession. In 2010 the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders in Minnesota was 4.1 percent, while the unemployment rate for others was more than double that. And by 2016 the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders dropped to 1.8 percent.
For sources and links related to data points shared here, see page 4 of the Council’s 2019 Policy Brief.
If you have questions about the value of bachelor’s degrees that the Council could help address, we’re glad to be of help. Feel free to contact John Manning at firstname.lastname@example.org.