Income inequality has become one of the defining features of American life and this is mirrored in the effects of educational attainment, research shows.
“Today’s young adults are the best-educated generation in history: Some 34% of 25- to 32-year-old Millennials have a bachelor’s degree or more, compared with 25% of Gen Xers, 24% of Baby Boomers and 13% of the Silent generation when they were the same age as today’s Millennials”, the PEW report states.
But when it comes to welfare, there is an notable lack of economic progress from one generation of young adults to the next.
“The economic analysis finds that Millennial college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn more annually – about $17,500 more – than employed young adults holding only a high school diploma. The pay gap was significantly smaller in previous generations.”
“While the earnings of less-educated Millennials are sinking in comparison with earlier less-educated young adults, the earnings of all Millennials have remained relatively flat. In 2013, the earnings of all Millennials employed full time were about $35,000. That compares with about $34,900 for all early Boomers in 1979.”
A larger share living in poverty
The PEW researchers went on comparing the benefits of a college education with the financial burden imposed by four or more years of college. “Among Millennials ages 25 to 32, the answer is clearly yes: About nine-in-ten with at least a bachelor’s degree say college has already paid off (72%) or will pay off in the future (17%).”
“To be sure, the Great Recession and the subsequent slow recovery hit the Millennial generation particularly hard. Neither college graduates nor those with less education were spared. On some key measures such as the percentage who are unemployed or the share living in poverty, this generation of college-educated adults is faring worse than Gen Xers, Baby Boomers or members of the Silent generation when they were in their mid-20s and early 30s.”
“For example, among those ages 25 to 32, fully 22% with only a high school diploma are living in poverty, compared with 6% of today’s college-educated young adults. In contrast, only 7% of Baby Boomers who had only a high school diploma were in poverty in 1979 when they were in their late 20s and early 30s.”