Wages and Earnings:
Difference in Median Earnings Between a High School Diploma and an Associates Degree

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For the Year

Difference in Median Annual Earnings Between College Graduates and Workers with Just a High School Diploma

Why is this important?

These data indicate the personal financial gain, within each state, of achieving higher levels of educational attainment. In all states, those who have college degrees see wages increase compared to those with no college degree. Those with a college degree earn substantially more money annually compared to those with less than a college degree.

What are the policy implications?

Some states have economies that reward college degree holders at much higher rates. States that have relatively low wages for college graduates demand relatively few college graduates and suggest more emphasis is needed to focus on the role of higher education in economic development.

Also, in some states, primarily those with large manufacturing sectors, employees with just a high school diploma (or less) are rewarded with relatively high wages while their counterparts with college degrees make low wages relative to other states. Given the constant decline of employment in the manufacturing sector in all states across the US, how will these states keep or improve their relative position in personal per capita income and the strength of the states' tax base?

States with low returns on associates and bachelor's attainment are more likely to lose these residents to other states with more vibrant economies that reward college graduates with relatively higher pay.

Another policy implication arises when one compares and contrasts the difference in earnings from high school completion to associates and bachelor's completion and the in-state degree production by degree-level. For example, some states produce relatively large numbers of bachelor's degrees with a low in-state personal financial return, while also producing very few associates degrees with a large personal return. These states are the likely to export bachelor's degree holders while importing needed associates degree-holders to fill jobs requiring associate degrees (e.g. engineering tech, health tech, licensed practical nurses, etc.).

Other factors to consider:

Educational Attainment

Net Migration