While protesters complain about the top 1 percent, a harsher inequality — the gap between college graduates and non-graduates — is dividing the country, writes David Brooks in the New York Times

Over the past several decades, the economic benefits of education have steadily risen. In 1979, the average college graduate made 38 percent more than the average high school graduate, according to the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke. Now the average college graduate makes more than 75 percent more.

Moreover, college graduates have become good at passing down advantages to their children. If you are born with parents who are college graduates, your odds of getting through college are excellent. If you are born to high school grads, your odds are terrible.

It’s not just income, writes Brooks, cribbing from Can the Middle Class Be Saved? in The Atlantic.  College graduates have a widening edge in family stability, health habits, maybe even friendship networks.

In the 1970s, high school and college grads had very similar family structures. Today, college grads are much more likely to get married, they are much less likely to get divorced and they are much, much less likely to have a child out of wedlock.

 The “stagnant human capital” and “stagnant social mobility” of the bottom 50 percent is the real problem, Brooks argues.

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  1. This just in, completing college leads to familiy stability and better educational outcomes for your children. Its all because of college. Obviously, there are no other factors or traits that would lead someone to be able to complete college and also have a more stabile personal life. Someone who valued education enough to get one can’t pass on those traits to their children.

    Correlation/Causation is always wonderful.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    Paul is absoulutely right that there is a correlation/causation problem here. In fact, there is also a reverse causation problem here. The same qualities that make you likely to be successful in marriage and unlikely to have a child out of wedlock also make you likely to complete college.

    What I think is significant to that years ago lots of people had these “success” qualities and didn’t go to college. Now they are much more likely to. There may also be some bad feedback here. People who don’t do well in college (or high school) see themselves as less competent and less likely to succeed and put up less resistance to things that are immediately pleasurable but hurtful in the long run. It turns into a self-fulfilling prophesy.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    Chicken-egg. As one commenter said, I think, with more kids going to college, we’re making a pretty good sweep of the kids who already have the personal qualities to keep out of the trouble named in the article. that leaves a highr concentration of those less able to keep things together in the non-college cohort. In older times, the kids with good qualities sometimes didn’t get to college, but did reasonably well keeping out of trouble, giving us the post-war society, particularly in the post-war ‘burbs, that was so stable and trouble-free that it became a synonym for “boring”. Remember the song about the houses all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same?