08 – Education & Religion


Education seems like it’s the answer to everything in the United States. When it comes to social problems or individual opportunity, we place an enormous amount of faith in education to cure what ails us. Given all the time and money we invest, especially as students, we hope that the payoff will be worth it.

The good news for students hoping that more education leads to higher incomes 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 (data from 20102007 and 2004) 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 2012 and were released in 2013. They come from the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement (PINC-03: 2012 Person Income Table of ContentsBoth Sexes, 25 to 64 Years, Worked Full-Time, Year-Round, All Races (Excel file)). Graphically, the new numbers look like this:

Median Earnings by Educational Attainment - 2014

A New York Times article by David Leonhardt, “Is College Worth It? Clearly, New Data Say” reaches a similar conclusion. Leonhardt reports that the difference in income between those with a high school degree and those with a college degree has risen steadily.

Rising_Value_of_a_College_DegreeLeonhardt provides a number of useful links to studies analyzing the correlation. In reference to one of them he writes:

The much-discussed cost of college doesn’t change this fact. According to a paper by Mr. Autor published Thursday in the journal Science, the true cost of a college degree is about negative $500,000. That’s right: Over the long run, college is cheaper than free. Not going to college will cost you about half a million dollars.

 

[Update: There is a newer version of this post with updated data from 2012 available here.]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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The rising cost of college and what families “should” be doing to save (Hint: $400+/month from birth to 18 per child for a private & $150+/month for a public): http://bit.ly/bjZhnY

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“I believe in education for action. I believe in telling children the truth about the history of the world, that it does not consist of the history of kings, or lords or cabinets. It consists of the history of the mass of the workers, a thing that is not taught in the schools. I believe in telling children how to measure value, a thing that is not taught in any school.”

- James Bryson McLachlan, Secretary-Treasurer, United Mine Workers Union, District 26, circa 1925.

[h/t Quotation of the Day]

“I believe in education for action. I believe in telling children the truth about the history of the world, that it does not consist of the history of kings, or lords or cabinets. It consists of the history of the mass of the workers, a thing that is not taught in the schools. I believe in telling children how to measure value, a thing that is not taught in any school.”

- James Bryson McLachlan, Secretary-Treasurer, United Mine Workers Union, District 26, circa 1925.

NYT columnist Kristof has a column up on gender & education: The Boys Have Fallen Behind. He cites statistics about the differences between boys and girls in schools:

  • 64% of National Honor Society members are girls
  • Grade point average for girls: 3.09
  • Grade point average for boys: 2.86
  • 62% of those who get a perfect SAT score (2400) are boys

Kristof briefly explores possible reasons for the why boy on average have lower scores yet there are more boys among top academic performers. One possibility he doesn’t seem to explore is whether or not boys have calculated that they do not need to do as well in school to still get jobs that pay  better on average than will women due to discrimination and the gender wage gap.

The primary source for his data is Richard Whitmire‘s book Why Boys Fail. Richard Whitmire was interviewed on ABC’s Good Morning America:

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InsideHigherEd has a story up about the resurgence of the sociology of religion: Sociologists Get Religion. It provides details of a recent study analyzing sociology journal articles on religion published from 1978-2007. They report that:

there has been a significant increase over the last 25 or so years not only in the quantity of work done by sociologists on religion, but also in how religion is treated in those studies. No longer is it assumed to be only a reflection of some other socioeconomic trend, but increasingly it is treated as the factor that may be central to understanding a given group of people.

The story also includes reactions from several sociologists of religion including Fred Kniss, Darren Sherkat, and David Yamane.

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The Institute for College Access & Success has released its annual report, “Student Debt and the Class of 2008,” [pdf] on student debt levels for 2008 grads as part of its Project on Student Debt.

They found that the average student loan debt for a 2008 graduate was $23,200. There was significant variation by state, school type, and individual schools. The District of Columbia had the highest average at $$29,793 followed by Iowa (where I live) at $28,174. The lowest was Utah at $13,041. Average debt also varied by school type: Public 4-year: $20,200; Private non-profit 4-year: $27,650; & Private for-profit 4-year: $33,050.  Individual schools varied from $5,000 to $106,000 in average debt.

An interactive map to see state-level variation is available here. Clicking on a state or on the drop-down menu on that page and selecting a state provides a pop-up box with data about individual schools in the state you select (unless you have pop-ups blocked in your browser). There is also an Excel file available on that page that provides averages for public, private, and overall debt load for each state.

Full report: Student Debt and the Class of 2008 [pdf]

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