Massachusetts Becomes First State Where Over Half of Workforce Holds a Bachelor’s Degree

Massachusetts Becomes First State Where Over Half of Workforce Holds a Bachelor’s Degree

By at least one measure, Massachusetts has the most educated workforce of any state in the US, according to a new report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. Citing an analysis of Current Population Survey data by the Economic Policy Institute, the report reveals that 50.2 percent of Massachusetts workers hold at least a bachelor’s degree. New Jersey is the second most educated state, with 45.2 percent of workers holding BAs, followed by New York, Maryland, and Connecticut. Nationwide, 35.5 percent of the workforce has a bachelor’s degree.

The report, titled “Education and State Economic Strength: A Snapshot of Current Data,” also notes that these high levels of education correlate with high median hourly wages: $21.35 in New Jersey and $21.22 in Massachusetts compared to a national average of $17.80.

“While it might seem obvious in 2017 that higher levels of college education would be associated with higher earnings at the state level,” the report adds, “this relationship is actually a fairly recent feature of the US economy. In 1979, the correlation between the educational attainment of a state’s workforce and its median hourly wage was weak.”

Indeed, the EPI’s latest research has found that the college wage premium is at an all-time high since economists began measuring it over 40 years ago. Other studies have shown that the class of 2017 stood to earn higher starting salaries than their peers who graduated in other recent years, while holders of two-year associate degrees are also finding more decent-paying jobs than they were a generation ago.

Wages in Massachusetts have also been growing faster for more educated than less educated workers, and a key challenge for the state today is ensuring that young people can afford the advanced educations they need to remain competitive in a highly educated job market, the Boston Globe’s Katie Johnson points out:

By 2020, almost three-quarters of jobs in Massachusetts will require postsecondary education, according to a 2013 Georgetown University study. And the cost of getting access to these jobs just keeps going up. The average cost of tuition and fees at state schools and community colleges in Massachusetts doubled between 2001 and 2016, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, to $8,000 a year per student, adjusted for inflation, as state funding fell by $3,000 per student during the same period. …

Reflecting the patterns of income inequality across the nation, the wage gains over the years have been concentrated at the top. Wages for high school graduates and those with some college have remained flat since 1979, between $15 and $16 an hour, adjusted for inflation, while people with a bachelor’s degree or higher have had a 33 percent bump in wages during that time, to more than $30 an hour. Educated people in the top 10 percent of Massachusetts wage earners had the biggest gains, rising from a 52 percent premium to a 130 percent advantage over the highest paid 10 percent of workers with a high school diploma.