The data, from the 2015 American Community Survey, continue to show that the more you learn, the more you earn. In 2015, median earnings for adult workers without a high school diploma were approximately $21,000 compared with $67,000 for those with a graduate degree. Workers with “some college” or an associate’s degree—the most common level of educational attainment tracked in the survey—earned about half the typical salary for workers with a graduate degree, at roughly $34,000.
Despite earnings growth, each of these groups had lower median earnings in 2015 than before the recession in 2007. The decline was steepest for middle-skilled workers, whose inflation-adjusted median earnings were down more than 8 percent from their pre-recession level. Declines were more modest for other groups, from 6 percent for workers with only a high school diploma, to 4 percent for those with a bachelor’s or graduate degree. All groups experienced gains from 2014 to 2015, but middle-skilled workers’ earnings had previously dropped more steeply and for a longer period of time.