High school graduates are losing ground fast

hobo with cardboardWe’ve known for awhile that incomes have been dropping for people with only high school educations. But there was a statistic in a recent Pew Research Center study that really set me back on my heels: 22% of people aged 25 to 32 who graduated high school, but not college, live in poverty. That compares to 6% of people with college degrees.

The poverty rate overall and for the college educated has doubled since 1979, when the early wave of the Baby Boom was in the same age bracket. For those with just a high school diploma, though, the rate has more than tripled.

Meanwhile, the earnings gap between college graduates and high school graduates is the widest it’s been in 50 years.

For more on the Pew study, read my latest Reuters column. You can subscribe here to weekly updates of my education column.



  1. As a statistician, I would want to know a little more about this PEW research. They are very reputable and I’m sure they had an excellent study, but I’m not sure all of the findings can be distilled into one sentence.

    It would seem to me that “motivation” might be a cofactor in the progress of students from HS to college and then from college to career. There are ways to measure whether these HS graduates ceased to progress in society because of economic factors or other reasons.

    I know I am sort of in the “Mike Rowe” camp when it comes to success. HS graduates do have opportunities, they aren’t as heralded as careers like doctor & lawyer, but they are there. However those opportunities also require some desire to succeed & progress via apprenticeship or vocational/technical training.

    • My background’s in economics, so I share your suspicion of too-small data sets…but in this case Pew (which sets a high standard anyway) used the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. As you note, the opportunities are there for those who pursue some post-secondary education. Succeeding without that will, as the Pew economist points out, be increasingly rare.

  2. Your Reuters column is incorrectly linked.