October 30, 1998
Earning generally increase with additional educational attainment, but this is not true for every individual. In 1996, about 17 percent of college graduates earned less than the median high school graduate. Median earnings for high school graduates in 1996 were $23,317. The percentage of college-educated workers earning less than $23,317 varied from 21 percent for bachelor's degree holders to 7 percent for workers with a professional degree.
The proportion of college-educated workers earning less than the median for high school graduates tends to decline with age. About 14 percent of college graduates aged 30 and over earned less than the median for high school graduates. However, low earnings are still most common for younger graduates. Over one-half of young bachelor's degree holders aged 20 to 24 earned less than the median for high school graduates.
In some occupations—such as service, farming, transportation, machine operators and laborers, and administrative support—more than 40 percent of workers with a bachelor's degree earned less than the median for high school graduates in the occupation. Only 13 to 14 percent of workers in executive and managerial or technical operations were likely to have lower earnings.
These data are a product of the Current Population Survey. For a summary on earnings by educational attainment, see "Earnings increase substantially with additional education", The Editor's Desk. Detailed information may be obtained from "Earnings of College Graduates, 1996", Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Fall 1998.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, About 1 in 6 college graduates earns less than high school graduates on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/1998/oct/wk4/art05.htm (visited November 29, 2015).
Fifty years of looking at changes in peoples lives
Longitudinal surveys help us understand long-term changes, such as how events that happened when a person was in high school affect labor market success as an adult.