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California Study Highlights Value of Going to College

October 2, 2010

Updated research recently published by the California Postsecondary Education Commission reinforces what most of us already know: the level of educational attainment directly impacts income levels and employment rates.  For parents who have seen the documentary “Race to Nowhere” and are concerned that this data will only increase the stress impacting our students it is important to note that this data represents the average for all graduates – not just the small number of graduates from the most elite and selective institutions.  

Despite all of the challenges facing America’s school system we are still home to thousands of excellent post-secondary options for students – pick-up the latest College Handbook (published by the CollegeBoard) and there are 1,700 2-year and 2,100 4-year colleges profiled.  There are many pathways to a college degree and many excellent colleges to attend. ( has compiled a comprehensive College Primer for Parents covering key aspects of college admissions planning for parents.)

From 2007-9 California’s unemployment rate jumped from 5.0% to 9.8%.  Average income over the same period fell.  Drill down into the data and those without a high school degree went from an unemployment rate of 9.6% to 17.3% whereas those with a graduate degree were less severely impacted (2.4% in 2005 and 3.8% in 2009).  The impact on income followed a similar trend – those without a high school degree saw their income fall from 2007-9 whereas those with a graduate degree saw their income rise over the same period.  The recession has impacted everyone, but those with less education were much more severely impacted.  Looking at the detail over the period:

2009 Education Level vs. Unemployment Rate / Income Level (California)

Education Level Unemployment Rate Average Annual Income
State Average 9.80% $35,366
Graduate / Professional Degree 3.80% $73,078
Baccalaureate Degree 6.10% $51,938
Some College / Associate Degree 8.80% $35,643
High School Graduate 12.20% $26,950
Less Than High School Graduate 17.30% $18,451

Change since 2007

Education Level 2007 – 9 Unemployment Rate Change 2007-9
Average Annual Income Change
State Average 4.80% ($1,018)
Graduate / Professional Degree 1.40% $1,140
Baccalaureate Degree 3.20% ($432)
Some College / Associate Degree 4.70% ($1,315)
High School Graduate 6.40% ($2,249)
Less Than High School Graduate 7.70% ($722)


  1. October 3, 2010 1:51 pm

    Great job! Keep it up.

  2. David Beaumont permalink
    August 23, 2011 4:40 pm

    This is great data, but is there anyway to get the same data for the year 2010 or up through July 2011?

    • permalink
      August 23, 2011 4:47 pm

      David – the data used for this article was from the California Postsecondary Education Commission which, according to a note on their website, is being eliminated due to budget cuts: “Funding for CPEC has been eliminated from the 2011-12 state budget; as a result, the agency will close in fall 2011. CPEC’s closure will affect this website and other agency resources.” We haven’t found another source to pull this data in aggregate, and the CPEC data wasn’t updated for 2010.


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