If you are the right age to have watched re-runs of the show on Nickelodeon, Clarissa Explains It All, then you are the age group today’s blog was written for. And don’t tell me the previous statement is grammatically incorrect. After having looked at these results, I’m already pissed off (note to self: don’t swear in front of children)
Look at this next graph closely. It can answer several questions for you, including does education matter (yes, to an extent) and does it overcome the effects of race (some, but not completely).
Notice those lines I drew on the chart. What they show is an effect of completion of education. For every group, there is an increase in mean income at the point where you get diploma or degree. There is a slight bump up when you finish high school, another jump when you finish a college degree, and the biggest jump when you finish a graduate degree, either an MD/ JD or Ph.D. You can’t really see it on the chart (which is why you want to look at the tables as well) but each point you FINISH something there is a big jump. So, for example, going from three years of college to a college degree is a much bigger increase in salary than going from no college to one year of college.
Why the drop down at the end? That is because people who have an MD or a law degree on the average made a little more than people with Ph.D.. Both groups, though, made a lot more money than people with just a college degree.
So, first lesson, if you want to make a lot of money in America, your best chance is to go to college for at least 8 years. Remember that whole thing about mean and median, though? Here is the MEDIAN income by education.
So, is it true that if you just worked hard and got an education you’d be successful? To a point, yes. But that means you have to graduate from high school, be able to afford to go to college, graduate from college with good enough grades to get into graduate school, be able to afford to go to graduate school and graduate with an MD or a PhD.
Anyone can do that – there’s certainly no law against anyone applying, and it’s against the law to just say, “Hey, we don’t accept black people in medical school”, unlike, say, when my grandfather went to medical school in the 1920s.
HOWEVER …. if your parents have money, it is a whole lot easier for you to afford college and to afford not to work during college. If you don’t have to work full-time and can just study, if you don’t have to wait until three weeks into the semester when you’ve earned enough money to buy your books, then it is going to be easier for you to get good grades, get into college and stay in college. If your parents went to college themselves, they are going to be better able to help you with everything from your schoolwork in high school to filling out your college applications.
I am NOT saying this to discourage anyone, in fact, the opposite. I am saying it because when you are in one of those accelerated high school programs or when you are in college, and it seems like making the grades is easier for other people than for you, you are right. If you find yourself asking what’s wrong with you, the answer is – there’s not a god damn thing wrong with you (note to self: Don’t swear in front of the children).
We just saw that with every diploma or degree you get, your likely income goes up A LOT, even with the fact that income is very skewed.
Now, here is another chart from the census data. This one bothers me even more than the others.
In 2009, over half of the Hispanic adults in California had not graduated from high school. This compares to about 20% of the white, non-Hispanic population. The exact figures are 59% and 22%.
Does this mean that fewer people are working? Well, it is true that there is much higher unemployment among people with less education. However, it is not nearly enough to explain the differences in income.
64% of Hispanics are employed, compared to 70% of non-Hispanic whites. That’s a difference but it’s not nearly enough to explain the difference in the chart we saw yesterday which showed that whites have a median income more than DOUBLE that of Hispanics.
So, we see that most Hispanics are working, in fact, the percentage of Hispanics working are just a little below the average for the state of California, which is 67%. Those numbers, by the way, only include people who are working full-time. What happened to that thing about people are poor because they’re lazy and not working hard?
Could it be that those Hispanics who have less than a high school education are all illegal immigrants? That’s the term we kept hearing during the last election, right? The reason our state is having problems is because of all of those people here illegally.
Well, I ran those statistics just on citizens. Before I ran the analyses, before I looked at the results, I had to think about this. I’m Latina. What if it turns out that is the truth? What if the data show that the real problem is we have all of these non-citizens here and they are bringing down our average educational level, our median income, everything … What would you do?
A very wise man told me once,
“The data show what they show.”
I found some mistakes in a study he had done, and he was pretty well-known for his research, and I was just nobody. When I showed him what I had found, he helped me write up my study and get it published. His point was that if you are a real scientist, you have to do the best you can to find the truth and then you state that truth as simply as you can, whether it turns out to be what you hoped to find or not. Just so you know, NOT all scientists are like that, but they should be.
Here’s what I found:
It turns out that if you only include citizens, it makes very little difference. The reason we have income inequality in this country is NOT because we have a whole lot of undocumented people from Mexico. I always suspected that was bullshit (note to self: remember not to swear in front of the children). In fact, including only citizens decreases only down to 57% the percentage of people without a high school education.
So, why did I come to tell you all of this depressing stuff? For one reason, the truth is always better than a lie. If you KNOW that the chances are you won’t make much money, even if you work full time and even if you are a citizen, unless you get an education, then you damn well better get one.
High school is FREE! If you absolutely hate the high school you have to attend, see if you can get into a charter school, a magnet school, a scholarship to a private school – they DO give them. If none of that works and you drop out even though I TOLD you not to get your GED or go to an alternative school.
You can even go to a community college without a high school diploma. Please don’t waste tens of thousands of dollars going to some place like the University of Phoenix. You can go to Los Angeles City College or Santa Monica College for about $600 a semester in fees and if your family doesn’t have a lot of money you can get usually get the tuition waived.
When you get that education, not only will you be making more money but you will be in a position to do something about the way income is distributed in this country.
— unless you’re okay with it being like this?
First you understand the way it is – and then you change it. There was a time when no one could imagine there being a black president. There was a time when universities turned down women, African-Americans, Jews, Asian-Americans for medical school just because they weren’t white and male. It isn’t that way any more.
In fact, over the past thirty years, income has changed to be less equal in America. It can change back.
You don’t have to accept the world being the way it is.