A college degree pays dividends for a lifetime, report finds



Adults with at least a college degree went unemployed at about half the rate of those with only a high school degree during the Great Recession, according to a new report from the nonprofit College Board.

Among adults age 25 and older, unemployment hit 4.6 percent in 2009 for those with a four-year college degree, according to the report Education Pays 2010. The jobless rate for high school graduates that year was nearly double, 9.7 percent.

The college-educated have consistently found more work than those with only a high school diploma. But the recession magnified the gap. In 1999, by contrast, overall unemployment was 4 percent and the gap between jobless rates for college and high school graduates was 1.7 points.


The gap has widened in recent years. Between 2005 and 2009, the difference in unemployment rates between college and high school graduates grew from 2.3 points to 5.1 points.

"If it wasn't clear before, it should be abundantly clear now that a college graduate is far more competitive in today's workplace," said Gaston Caperton, the College Board president, in a statement.

Income increased more rapidly in recent years for college graduates, as well. As of 2008, college graduates earned $22,000 more a year than high school graduates, $55,700 vs. $33,800. A college graduate can now expect to earn two-thirds more in lifetime pay than a high school graduate.

The far-reaching report, released at midnight by the educational nonprofit, shows the college-educated living not only a more prosperous life but a healthier one:

Obesity rates were lower in 2008 for the college-educated, 20 percent, than for the high-school educated, 34 percent.

Rates of smoking declined from 14 percent to 9 percent among college-educated adults over the past decade, while the rate for high school graduates dipped only from 29 percent to 27 percent.

And college graduates were almost twice as likely in 2008 to exercise vigorously than high school graduates, 63 percent vs. 37 percent.

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By Daniel deVise  | September 21, 2010; 12:00 AM ET