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Everybody knows that college is too expensive, too old-fashioned, too liberal, too humanities focused, and so on. But the recession has demonstrated that it's also too important to dismiss for all those reasons.


The Wall Street Journal explains the value of an education, in employment statistics.

The recession has led to steep job losses across the U.S. work force, but less-educated people have been hit particularly hard.

The unemployment rate for workers over 25 years old who haven't gone beyond high school rose to 10% in May, nearly doubling from 5.2% a year earlier, the government said Friday. Among workers who haven't completed high school, the unemployment rate rose to 15.5%, compared with 8.4% last year.

By contrast, the jobless rate among those with four-year college degrees was 4.8%, up considerably from 2.3% a year ago, but well below the rate for people with less education.

And here's a graph from Calculated Risk making that point with colors:

unemploymentbyeducation.png

There are couple of things I find striking about this graph. The first is that, as important as college is, the biggest difference in employment is between those who do and don't finish high school. The second is that there doesn't seem to have been any time over the last 15 years when one of the four groups seemed to really gain on the others. The lines move almost in unison, through the 1990s and through the 2001 recession. In good times and bad, the statistical difference between education groups is pronounced and consistent. Now I wonder how the lines would change if high schools did away with summer vacation.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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