Feb15′

Michigan employment and earnings by education attainment

Every year the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a table showing the national unemployment rate and median earnings from work by education attainment. Every year we write a blog about it.

It, of course, is more evidence that those with a four-year degree earn more and work more. We write about it all the time because the public conversation––driven by far too many of our political and business leadership––is telling a very different story. That many are better off not getting a four-year degree and instead going into the so-called professional trades.

Let’s look at the same data and some more for Michigan. The data comes from the 2016 American Community Survey.

First the unemployment rate for those 25-64 by education attainment. Overall the annual average in Michigan was 5.0 percent. For those with less than a high school degree it was 11.6 percent, 7.1 percent for those with a high school degree or GED, 4.9 percent for those with some college or an associates degree and 2.4 percent for those with a bachelors degree or more.

How about median earnings from work? This is for those 25 and older who work for an employer and those who are self employed. For all Michiganders 25 and older median earnings from work were $36,209. For those with less than a high school degree it was $20,512, $27,202 for those with a high school degree or GED, $32,435 for those with some college or an associates degree, $50,821 for those with a bachelors degree, and $68,906 for those with a graduate degree.

The poverty rate for those 25 and older by education attainment: For Michigan 25 and older it was 11.7  percent. For those with less than a high school degree it was 28.8 percent, 14.7 percent for those with a high school degree or GED, 10.4 percent for those with some college or an associates degree and 4.3 percent for those with a bachelors degree or more.

Finally the labor force participation rate for those 25-64. Overall it was 75.4  percent. For those with less than a high school degree it was 49.7 percent, 68.6 percent for those with a high school degree or GED, 77.9 percent for those with some college or an associates degree and 86.1 percent for those with a bachelors degree or more.

The pattern is crystal clear. The higher your education attainment the more you are in the labor force and the more you earn from work. Also the higher your education attainment the more likely you are to be in the labor market actively looking for work if you do not have a job currently and the less likely you are to be in poverty.

For each of the four data sets with every level of education attainment your economic outcomes gets better. No exceptions. Are there good-paying jobs that do not require a four-year degree? As we say repeatedly, yes. But the most reliable path to good-paying jobs, and maybe more importantly, good-paying forty year careers is by obtaining a four-year degree. Getting a four-year degree does not guarantee a good-paying job or career. But it is the most reliable path to prosperity for each of us and our kids and grandkids. End of story!

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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

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