The Plight of Young People in 2012

Yesterday’s post on the obvious and boring reason why college graduates cannot find jobs reminded me that, given the latest Census release, I should check in to see how young people did last year economically, both those with and without college degrees. Sadly, almost all of the coverage of the economic plight of young people focuses on the minority of young people with college degrees. This is probably because all of the people who write about such topics have college degrees and so do most of their friends. It’s also probably because people think those with college degrees are more undeserving of economic strain. Despite this somewhat annoying tendency, it remains the case that however bad the plight of young college graduates is, the plight of young non-graduates is so much worse.

So what do the 2012 numbers tell us?

Of the 41.8 million people persons between the ages of 25 and 34, 55.2 percent of them lack any college degree, 10.1 percent have an Associate’s degree, and the remaining 34.6 percent have a Bachelor’s degree or greater. So only about a third of young people over the age of 25 actually find themselves in the four-year degree camp that most coverage of the youth tends to focus on.

The incomes of the various education levels move up as you’d expect, with the median Bachelor’s degree holder capturing 64 percent more income than the median high school graduate.

Although 24 percent of high school graduates made less than $15k last year, only 10 percent of college graduates did so. A whopping 40 percent of high school drop outs made less than this amount.

When it comes to this age group as a whole, the median and average income was basically unchanged from 2011, standing at $30.5k and $37.5k respectively. These numbers are still down considerably from 2000 when they stood at $34k for median income and $41.5k for average income. Thus the youth income crisis (as opposed to the exaggerated youth debt crisis, which is actually in the decline) is still with us, the non-degreed especially.