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An Investment of a Lifetime? The Long-term Labour Market Premiums Associated with a Postsecondary Education

This paper examines the long-term labour market premiums associated with completing a college certificate and a bachelor's degree, compared to completing a high school diploma. Several labour market outcomes of individuals are examined with longitudinal data over a 20-year period spanning their mid-30s to their mid-50s. The findings show that individuals who have a bachelor's degree or a college certificate have more favourable labour market outcomes over their working lives than individuals who have only a high school diploma. More specifically, the earnings premium associated with a bachelor's degree over the 20-year period ranges, on average, from $728,000 for men to $442,000 for women. For a college certificate, the premium is $248,000 for men and $180,000 for women, on average. The earnings premium associated with a bachelor's degree is much larger at the top of the distribution for men than it is for women. The study also finds that, for both men and women, a bachelor's degree and a college certificate are associated with more years of coverage in an employer-sponsored pension plan and fewer layoffs than a high school diploma.

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Last Updated: December 3, 2015