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Report Highlights Nonmonetary Benefits of a College Degree

September 17, 2007

Over the course of 40 years, earners of bachelor's degrees can expect to earn 61 percent more than those whose highest diploma comes from high school. However, a new report from the College Board uses data from a variety of sources to look beyond the earning potential of college graduates and into other individual and societal benefits from higher education. According to the report, Education Pays 2007: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society, college graduates are more likely to live healthy lifestyles, to be civically engaged, and to be more open to differing opinions. They also are less likely to be living in poverty or to be unemployed. 

Leading Healthier Lives
The rates of smoking and quitting the habit correlate with a person's level of education. In 2005, 9 percent of individuals, age 25 and older, with a bachelor’s degree or higher were smokers, compared to 26 percent of individuals who graduated from high school. Regardless of age, individuals with higher levels of education also exercised more. Sixty-one percent of bachelor's degree recipients, age 25-34, reported exercising vigorously at least once a week compared to 31 percent of those only with high school diplomas.

Civic Engagement and Open-Mindedness
More than 40 percent of individuals, age 25 and older, with bachelor’s degrees volunteered in 2006, compared to fewer than 20 percent of individuals with only a high school education. In every age category, individuals with higher levels of education were also found to be more likely to vote. More than three quarters (76 percent) of individuals, age 25-44, with bachelor’s degrees or higher voted in the 2004 presidential election, while fewer than half (49 percent) of high school graduates voted. The higher a person's education, the more likely he or she is found to be open to understanding the opinions of others: 73 percent of bachelor's degree recipients reported that it was important to try to understand the opinions of others, compared to 64 percent of those with only a high school education.

Poverty and Unemployment
Less than 4 percent of individuals, age 25 and older, with a bachelor's degree or higher were living in households in poverty, compared to more than 10 percent of individuals with only a high school education living in poverty. The unemployment rate for individuals, age 25 and older, with bachelor's degrees or higher, was less than 3 percent for all racial and ethnic groups, compared to as high as 8 percent for individuals with only a high school education.

The report, which also includes information on college participation and completion rates by race, ethnicity, income, and gender, can be downloaded for free on the College Board's Web site.

 

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