Does education really pay?

Although most of my friends have, or are currently working on, graduate degrees of some kind, most people don’t achieve this level of education. Shocking, I know.

Following a discussion about why I think it’s important for people without high school educations to work on their GED or pre-GED even if they don’t think they’ll be able to finish the entirety of it, I looked for research on it, the way I do.

What I found generally supports my opinion, but not completely. At least according to David Card (1999) in the Handbook of Labor Economics (1), it looks like if you have a 8th grade education, it makes sense to try for a 9th, and from there a 10th, but after that, unless you actually get a high school degree, it might not be worth it to pursue more education (Figure 1).

Hourly wage and years of education
Mean log hourly wage as relating to mean years of education (modified from 1).

Interestingly, the trend continues with college. It’s worth it to go to college, even if you don’t even get an associate’s degree.

But an associate’s degree is even better, and a bachelor’s degree is better yet.

Lastly, I guess most people who do a Master’s of Arts degree take almost as long as a PhD, and both take longer than an MD or JD (lawyer degree).

So, perhaps not shockingly, neither a Master’s degree nor a PhD are really worth the years of enslavement relative to becoming a lawyer or a medical doctor.J-D-scrubs

But we do it because we value education for it’s own sake, right? And because not all of us can look this good in scrubs.

Just kidding, I look awesome in scrubs.

References and Further Reading:

1. Card, D. (1999) The Causal Effect of Education on Earnings. Chapter 30, Handbook of Labor Economics, Volume 3, Part 1. Page 1808.


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