As we explored in our last post if we are serious about raising American living standards we need policies that address both increasing education attainment and that tilt the playing field in favor of employees rather than employers.
The chart below is more evidence of why both are needed. It depicts real median wages by education attainment in 2007 (the last year before the Great Recession) and 2013 for the US, Michigan and Minnesota. Two patterns are clear: (1) median wages at all levels of education attainment are falling. This is true for the country; a low education attainment, low per capita income state like Michigan; and a high education attainment, high per capita income state like Minnesota. And (2) those with higher education attainment have higher wages no matter what the geography or in years when median wages are higher or lower.
So college attainment does not protect employees from falling wages. A combination of globalization, technology and policy are driving wages lower for everyone. Rising real wages are the key to raising living standards. So we need a policy to make that a priority. But whether wages are falling or rising, those with a four year degree or more have higher median (and average) wages. They work more too. So increasing college attainment for all––not just children of the affluent––is an essential ingredient as well in raising living standards.