College-educated households are gaining in economic clout

by Grace

College-educated households account for a growing share of income. a trend associated with an overall increase in the number of college graduates,  a growing college wage premium, and changing marriage patterns.

20131007.COCCollegeEducatedIncome1

For the first time on record, households headed by someone with at least a bachelor’s degree received nearly a majority (49.7%) of aggregate U.S. household income; nearly one out of every two dollars went to the college educated.  In 2012 one-in-three households was college educated, so, put another way, half of the aggregate U.S. income goes to one third of the households.

While most of the income gain is due to the growth in the percentage of college-educated households, the growing wage premium and the state of marriage  may also be influencing the disproportionate income growth among this group.

COLLEGE WAGE PREMIUM — The college wage premium has been growing, from a ratio of about 1.7 in 1991 to almost 2.0 in 2010.

Earnings of four-year college-educated workers remain nearly twice those of high school-educated workers.

20131007.COCCollegeWagePremium2

MARRIAGE —

… College-educated households are more likely to be married and thus more likely to have secondary earners contributing to household income.

… “assortative mating” … married college-educated persons are more likely to have a college-educated spouse. Thus, they are more likely to have a spouse with high earnings.


Growing divisions?

These trends seem consistent with the idea of a growing class divide in our country.  Although it’s doubtful that economic and political divisions completely overlap, it is notable that the growing concentration of economic power among the college-educated elite coincides with what the Washington Post describes as “deeply embedded divisions in America’s politics”.

Related:  Non-marital births by education level as part of the growing class divide (Cost of College)

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