[Update: There is a newer version of this post with updated data from 2012 available here.]

We place a lot of faith in education to meet our needs both as individuals and as a society. Given all the time and money we invest, especially as students, we hope that the payoff will be worth it. One way to begin addressing that question for individuals is to check to see if there is a correlation between educational attainment and income level. The good news is that recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau demonstrates a strong positive correlation: as educational level goes up, median income also rises.

My past posts (here and here) on the relationship between education and income routinely receive among the most visits of any posts I have. The new numbers in this post are for 2010 and were released in 2011. They come from the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement (PINC-03, Table 28). Graphically, the new numbers look like this:

In addition, the Census Bureau released a report, Education and Synthetic Work-Life Earnings Estimates (pdf), in September, 2011 providing projected lifetime earnings for males and females by both educational attainment and race/ethnicity. This represents an effort to show the long-term consequences of such education differences. As the graph below demonstrates, the overall trend for all groups is that income goes up as educational attainment increases, though the nature of the benefit varies by both gender and race/ethnicity.

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