Smarter and Poorer: Low Wage Workers, 1980-2010

This graph plots the work of CEPR’s John Schmitt and Janelle Jones, from their examination of the educational attainment of low-wage workers–both nationally and in the states.  The punchline here, as Schmitt and Jones point out, is the remarkable jump in the educational attainment of low-wage workers (those earning less than $10/hr in 2011 dollars).   Nationally, 4o percent of low-wage workers in 1979 had not completed high school and just over 25 percent had completed some college.  By 2011, these numbers had nearly reversed: under 20 percent of low-wage workers came from the “less-than-high-school” cohort; and over 43 percent had some college under their belts.  The graph plots this by state (to compensate for smaller sample sizes, the data is averaged across three years, so “1980″ here is really “1979-1981″).  See the sidebar for a “walk-through” explanation of the graph.

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