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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Surprising Benefits of Higher Education

A college degree is associated with many benefits, and by now you may think you've heard about them all. Significantly higher lifetime earnings? Sure. Lower unemployment levels? Check. Comparatively higher career satisfaction? Got it, awesome. But what about decreased likelihood of developing obesity or diabetes? What about a productive and secure old age? What about a more secure marriage? Here are three benefits that researchers have found to positively correlate with earning a college degree.

Longer life and better health
These things are connected in complicated ways. We can't always show clear cause and effect. Nevertheless, this video from Virginia Commonwealth University does a good job of summarizing the health benefits associated with higher education. Steven H. Woolf, M.D., director of the VCU Center on Society and Health, noted, "I don't think most Americans know that children with less education are destined to live sicker and die sooner."

Further, this College Board report points out that college graduates are less likely to smoke, more likely to exercise, less likely to develop diabetes, and more likely to work in jobs that provide health insurance benefits.

Reduced risk of divorce
Wait, really? A college degree is related to a decreased chance of divorce? Research suggests that it is. A Science Daily summary states that "a college degree has a protective effect against divorce." Not only that, CNN reported in 2010 that college graduates are more likely to marry in the first place. The article goes on to note that being married is associated with various benefits in quality of life, such as higher income.

Higher standard of living in old age
While there are a number of reports focusing on the starting salaries of recent college graduates, a recent study looked at the lasting effect higher education has on older Americans. A U.S. News article on this research notes that older workers who hold a bachelor's degree earn almost three times more than those with no college experience.

The report goes on to explain that since Social Security and pension benefits are based on earnings, college-educated workers (who tend to earn at higher levels) not only have higher wages while working, but will typically have higher income in retirement. Further, since their occupations often involve less physical labor, it may be more attractive to them to keep working longer, further improving their retirement finances.

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