Boomers and Millennials Disagree About College. Who's Right?

by Phil Stott | October 18, 2016

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As if we needed any reminder of how different today's economic environment is than the one that the Baby Boomer generation graduated into, consider the following chart, which comes to us via some research by the American Advisors Group.

Note that this isn't a then and now comparison: this data represents attitudes today. And, despite everything they've seen, more than 1 in 4 boomers don't think that college education is important to career success at all, compared to fewer than 1 in 6 millennials.

Millennial-boomer college

A few possible explanations for that disparity:

1)      Life experience: If you're in the twilight years of your career, your education (or lack of it) is likely a distant memory; while it may have played a role in getting your career underway, it's everything you've done since that will have decided where you are today. But if you're at the other end—lighter on work experience, long on education, then it's understandable that you'd weight it higher.

2)      Confirmation bias: if you've invested the majority of your young life, plus a significant amount of money into gaining an education, of course you're going to say that education is a defining factor of career success.

3)      The employment wage gap is much wider today:

Pew college earnings

4)      Competition: back in 1975, just 10.6% of women and 17.6% of men in the US had college degrees. In 2015, almost 33% do—in both genders. That's a growth curve that shows no sign of stopping anytime soon—and one that limits the ability of non-college grads to make the kind of career progress they could have a generation or two ago.

Whichever way you slice it, in the economy we operate in today, a college degree gives you more chance of making career progress, and boosting your lifetime earnings—no matter what you might hear from your older relatives around the Thanksgiving table this year.

Filed Under: Education | Internships | Job Search | Salary & Benefits | Workplace Issues

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