Monday, February 18, 2019

Millennials: The College Divide

A lot has been written about the struggles of Millennials. The generation had the misfortune to enter the job market in the midst of the Great Recession, an economic setback that has been throwing shade on them for more than a decade. But some in the generation are doing better than others, according to a Pew Research Center analysis that compares the wellbeing of Millennials to that of older generations at the same age (the 25-to-37 age group was used for the analysis). The dividing line between Millennial Haves and Have Nots is the bachelor's degree. Millennials with a bachelor's degree are doing as well or better than Gen Xers, Boomers, or older Americans (the Silent Generation) at the same age. Millennials without a bachelor's degree are doing worse.

Among Millennials who work full-time, those with at least a bachelor's degree earned a median of $56,000 in 2017, according to Pew. This was about the same as college-educated Gen Xers earned when they were aged 25 to 37, and it was more than college-educated Boomers or older Americans earned as young adults. The opposite is true for Millennials without a college degree. Those with only some college earned a median of $36,000 in 2017, less than their older counterparts at the same age. Millennials with no more than a high school diploma earned just $31,300 in 2017, also less than equally-educated Gen Xers, Boomers, or the Silent Generation when they were young adults.

The rising fortunes of Millennial college graduates and the declining fortunes of Millennials without a college degree have resulted in a growing gap in the median household income of young adults by educational attainment. Millennials with at least a bachelor's degree had an (adjusted for household size) median household income of $105,000 in 2017 versus $49,000 for those with no more than a high school diploma—a gap of $56,000. The gap was $54,000 for Gen Xers at the same age, $41,000 for Late Boomers, $29,000 for Early Boomers, and just $20,000 for the Silent Generation.

Source: Pew Research Center, Millennial Life: How Young Adulthood Today Compares with Prior Generations

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