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How Does Education Level Affect Income Level in the US


The US economy has been bolstered by high specialization especially in the sciences. Silicon Valley depends on highly trained engineers and business people who develop products that are a world leader. The US has a majority of the top-ranking universities in the world and that is the reason why the US is a leader in a variety of fields especially in military technology and information technology. The American society is structured in a way that the top tier earners are Ivy league educated graduates at the helm of fortune 500 companies. The United States has a reputation of pulling in top talented academics and scientists from all over the world who have bolstered the competitive ranking of the US. As technology advances in all sectors, the best paying job will go to the most gifted in academic knowledge. The article asserts while education level is the primary determinant of the income levels for a majority of United States residents and worldwide, there are other factors that come into play in the determination of income level.

Immigrants and Economy

A debate is raging within the political ranks in the US about the significance of immigrants (both legal and illegal). The Trump administration has taken a tough stance against immigrants accusing them of destroying the social fabric of the US. Academics reminds politicians that the US has become too reliant on immigrants for it to afford to stop their migration or deport the ones already living in the US (Maynard, Micheline. P. 2). Immigrants present a dilemma to those that prefer a US devoid of outsides who appear alien or undercut indigenous citizens on wages. The Trump administration says that illegal immigrants cost the US $113 billion per annum in health and social security (Maynard, Micheline. P 3). Immigrants, both legal and illegal, are part of the foreign workers accused of taking jobs away from indigenous Americans

Within the Immigrant, education is the key differentiator. For example, Silicon Valley has a huge population of highly educated and specialized immigrants who earn more than $100,000 per annum. These kinds of immigrants live the kind of lifestyle an average that would envy anyone. The United States has had a policy of giving scholarships to the brightest and most gifted immigrants to local universities (Maynard, Micheline.P. 3-4). Combining their talent and the level of education received from Ivy League universities they end up earning a lot than average Americans while contributing immensely to the local economy.

A second group of immigrants is the uneducated legal immigrants and the illegal undocumented immigrants. These kinds of immigrants earn the lowest but work in key sectors of the American economy which offers the lowest wages. Undocumented immigrants support the construction industry as well as the restaurant industry in the US (Maynard, Micheline.P. 4). Due to a lack of education, these immigrant workers earn the lowest wages in the United States. These low earning immigrants face deportation or a suspension of the lottery system.

The construction industry and agriculture depend on these undocumented uneducated immigrants because they are ready to accept the lowest wages while their mobility is cut down to none. Undocumented immigrants tend to stay in these two sectors because they are afraid of the law while other sectors only employ workers who have legal citizen status. According to some sector insiders, these two sectors would collapse if the government decided to expel these immigrants (Maynard, Micheline.P 5). Businesses within these sectors would not favor an indigenous American who would require a higher wage and benefits such as social security and health insurance which they have not been offering to their immigrant workers for years.

Issues in Higher Education

Higher education has become expensive to the average American to the point that former students find it impossible to clear their student debts. Poor students rely on student debts to fund their education. The poorer the student is the more debt that student takes (Greenblat, Alan. P. 8). The US government has given a blind eye to student debts while students struggle with a high rate of default. The importance of higher education in the US has lost its prestige.

Politicians and policymakers argue that education needs to change to reflect the needs of the marketplace. For example, majors such as French Literature or other related social sciences have been condemned as wasting public funds and wasting students time and money (Greenblat, Alan.P. 5). Liberal policymakers have taken a stance that liberal arts degrees are equally important as science-based degrees. Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin has cut higher education funding to discourage students from taking courses in liberal arts that do not arm the students with relevant skills (Greenblat, Alan. P. 8). Bevin proposes that college students should take at least a two-year skills-based training before or after college education.

University education has been politicized and its primary objective as a center of knowledge and research left out. University education in the US needs to deliver more results to impress millions of students who have put their hopes on attaining an education. Major technologies have emanated from universities over time and this is at risk as universities fail to churn out students that can gain employment right away from school (Greenblat, Alan. P. 9). Conservative concerns that university education is not offering market-focused courses is true to a large extent. The US risks losing its position as an industrial and technology leader. A Harris report shows that the major concern for 14-23-year old’s is financial security (Greenblat, Alan. P. 10). Universities should make sure that financial security for their students is a top priority.

University education has been viewed as an avenue of increasing one’s income potential and today these institutions do not seem to deliver on this promise. Conservative politicians are of the opinion that students are enrolling for four-year majors for jobs that do not require a whole four years. Colleges have been advised to focus on majors such as marketing, graphic design and fire science (Greenblat, Alan. P. 10) which have actual demand in the job market.

Due to demand US colleges have started adapting the unapprenticed type of education whereby a student attends college classes while working at a company to acquire practical skills. Some academics argue that students schooled in liberal arts or other academics focused courses have a resilience which stands the technological changes of today.

College Rankings

College rankings have their own pros and cons. Categorization of colleges has been blamed on college rankings some of which do not serve the best interest of American students. The positive side of college rankings is that it guides a student on the outcome she or he is expecting when enrolling into a certain college (Karaim, Reed. P 1). But at the same time, it can mislead a poor student to enrolling into a very expensive college far away from home which would work against her best interests. Some argue that college rankings encourage colleges to focus their resources on things that do not matter such as building expensive buildings while neglecting personnel and curriculum (Karaim, Reed). Rich parents can take their time and choose the appropriate college for their child, a luxury that a poor student cannot afford. College education in the US is skewed towards rich parents who can invest the necessary resources for an outcome-based education.

Education Level vs. Income Level in the USA

An educational research conducted on 97 jurisdictions around the world to compared educational achievement based on affluence and inequality revealed that developed countries with less inequality performed better on average education that those countries with a high inequality level. He also compared this data with that of the United States, and the data shows that the US performed relatively poor than other developed countries. Developing countries reported significantly lower average achievements (Condron, Dennis J). This study affirms the assumptions that educational achievement reflects the economic background of the student. At the same time, educational achievements in a country are directly proportional to that country’s income levels and the level of inequality in that country.

This study justifies the fact that the U.S attain relatively lower marks when compared to other developed nations in Europe and Japan. Inequality affects access to education. The U.S has inequality issues when illegal immigration and racism is factored in (Condron, Dennis J). Lower income levels have been recorded within the African Americans, illegal immigrants, and women; these groups also recorded the lowest academic achievement. Low academic achievement in the U.S.A is directly related to less economic opportunities. America is accused of unfair employment practices targeting African Americans and foreigners. Recently, Asian students sued Harvard University for allegedly discriminating applicants of Asian descent (Condron, Dennis J). Cases of discrimination is one key reason why inequality exists in the U.SA.

Lack of access to higher education has rendered some families into a permanent state of poverty. Education access to prestigious university is a preserve of a few well-off families who can afford to pay the high tuition fees. Students from poor families attend poor-performing high schools with little to no hope of attending college (Condron, Dennis J). The inequality problem impedes poor students from elementary to high school. This comparison should form a basis for further research in the US in regard to inequality Vs. quality of education. Some researchers suggest that the sample size should be increased to get credible results while at the same time getting valid results.

Correlation between Educational Levels and Income of Households

Education is a key determinant of an individual’s position in society and the position the individual occupies in the labor market. The education of an individual American scholar has contributed immensely to the education levels in the US. America’s economic growth has been boosted by the various technologies coming out of our educational institutions. On the flip side, the level of education in a household might be the sole reason for the economic situation in that family.

A research conducted by Jana Turcinkova and Jana Stavkova on the effects of educational levels on household income in the Czech Republic can be adapted to the US. The study results reveal that households headed by someone with elementary and secondary education alone did not reach the national mean income; this group makes up 57% of the Czech population (Turcinkova, Jana and Stavkova, Jana). This relates to the US where families headed by a person with no post-secondary education record very low incomes. The same is true of illegal immigrants and some minority groups. The group of people at the mean level in Czech are those with a learned skill acquired through an apprenticeship program; this group comprises about 30% of the Czech population.

The study also shows that the group which recorded to have a tertiary education did not earn significantly more than that sub-category that underwent an apprenticeship. At this juncture, the lie about higher education and high-income levels comes to fore (Turcinkova, Jana and Stavkova, Jana). Attaining a higher level of education, especially post-secondary, does not guarantee anyone a higher income than the average earner. These findings reflect the concerns voiced by conservative politicians in the US who say that higher education does not equip American students with relevant skills.

In Turcinkova and Stavkova’s research, a conclusion was reached that household with basic education faced more risks of falling below the poverty line while those households headed by a person with a tertiary education level have the lowest risk of falling below the poverty line. In case a person with tertiary level education falls below the poverty line the reason would be the loss of a job (Turcinkova, Jana and Stavkova, Jana). The research recognizes that several factors affect individuals’ level of academic achievement. The research indicates that unfair treatment of certain groups on admission to colleges or discrimination of these groups influences accesses to education as well as academic performance. The researchers factored in barriers to education such as poverty as a variable in the research.


The body of literature referenced in this paper concludes that educational levels affect the level of income of households in the US. Despite this fact, higher education is facing a myriad of challenges that could challenge its position as a determinant of a good life. High student debts, low graduate employability are real challenges that the US government is finding difficult to deal with. Nevertheless, income disparity within the immigrant population is determined solely by the educational qualification of the head of the house. The Asian demographic registers the highest income in the US yet a majority of the people within this demographic is made up of immigrants. Unlike indigenous Americans, immigrants make use of the US education system to advance themselves. The notion that students in tertiary education acquire an education that is not applicable to the job market is true. To make education the number one income equalizer the government needs to modify our education system to focus on market-driven courses.

Works Cited

Condron, Dennis J. “Affluence, inequality, and educational achievement: A structural analysis of 97 jurisdictions across the globe.” Sociological Spectrum 33.1 (2013): 73-97.

Greenblatt, Alan. “Issues in Higher Education.” CQ Researcher, 26 Oct. 2018, pp. 897-920,

Karaim, Reed. “College Rankings.” CQ Researcher, 2 Jan. 2015, pp. 1-24,

Maynard, Micheline. “Immigrants and the Economy.” CQ Researcher, 24 Feb. 2017, pp. 169-92,

Turčínková, Jana, and Jana Stávková. “Does the Attained Level of Education Affect the Income Situation of Households?” Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences 55 (2012): 1036-104.


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