As students across the country graduate from high school this month and make plans for the future, a recent study suggests there is a widening gap between college graduates and workers whose education stopped after high school.
While the recent focus has been on the difference in income between the top 1 percent of earners compared to the rest of the country, MIT economist David Autor’s study finds that “the growth of skill differentials among the ‘other 99 percent’ is arguably even more consequential than the rise of the 1% for the welfare of most citizens.”
In Autor’s view, this growing inequality is attributable to a college education. In fact, over the last 35 years, he found that the boost in income from earning a college degree increased by $28,000, adjusted for inflation. Over the same period of time, if we redistributed the increase in income of the so-called “1 percent,” this would only amount to $7,100 per household.
The implications of this study are enormous. Autor’s study quantifies the value of postsecondary education. And this is only growing as the workforce changes. By 2018, 63 percent of all jobs will require some kind of postsecondary education and training.
We need to ensure that Arizona students are prepared to compete in this changing marketplace. A recentArizona Board of Regents survey found that after six years, only 5.5 percent of Arizona high school graduates had completed a 2-year degree and only 18.6 percent had completed a four-year degree program. Autor’s study is another reminder that we need to be laser-focused on ensuring that Arizona students have the skills they will need to be successful after high school.