Higher Education Means Higher Rural Earnings Gap

July 11, 2017 10:24 AM

Reaching for the highest educational level you can is generally regarded as a good thing. But if you’re a rural American, more education means a bigger earnings gap compared to your urban counterparts.

USDA-ERS data indicates that for those who have less than a high school degree, rural and urban earnings are neck and neck. But by the time workers earn a graduate or professional degree, earnings are nearly $20,000 lower in rural versus urban areas.

Rural vs. Urban Earnings

“Some studies suggest that higher urban earnings may encourage workers to leave rural areas, but factors like family ties and proximity to natural amenities (such as forest and lakes) may help keep or attract workers to rural areas,” notes USDA research agricultural economist Alexander Marre.

However, Marre notes that educational attainment is just one aspect that affects wages. Work experience, job tenure and ability are also essential factors to wages.

These findings appeared in USDA’s July 2017 Amber Waves publication. 

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