Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Value of Education in Bear River

Tyson Smith, Economist

Although college tuition has increased at an meteoric pace over the last 50 years, the value of obtaining a college degree still outweighs the costs according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. In fact, the study argues that “On virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment—from personal earnings to job satisfaction to the share employed full time—young college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education.” Not only are young graduates economically better-off than their peers, but the disparity in financial well-being is greater for this generation than any other generation in modern history.

Click on Chart to Enlarge Image
You may be wondering, “What is the effect of educational attainment on people that work in my county?” While we don’t have access to the same data at the county-level that the Pew Research article uses, there are proxies that can illuminate the value of education in Bear River. The U.S. Census Bureau publishes the American Community Survey (ACS), which includes five-year population estimates for areas as small as census tracts and block groups. The ACS collects data on employment, education, and income. We can use ACS data to estimate the economic impact of higher education for each county in the state.

The Bear River counties follow the same pattern as national trends. College graduates earn significantly higher wages than high school graduates. Furthermore, the proportion of college graduates living in poverty is much lower than the percent of high school graduates or less.

The ever-increasing costs of pursuing higher education, and the perilous consequences of astronomical student debt, have been well documented. However, it appears that the benefits of graduating from college continue to outweigh the costs.

Note: For more analysis of the favorable influence of educational attainment in the State of Utah, click here.