Natasha Cica has a piece in today’s SMH about the plight of those with postgraduate degrees, living in poverty. I normally like Natasha’s stuff, and we’re on friendly terms, but this seemed to go a bit far. After all, we know from work by Melbourne University’s Jeff Borland (PDF file) that those with bachelor’s degrees earn on average $380,000 more over their lifetime than those without. Could it really be true that going on to get a Masters or PhD lands you back on struggle street?
The ABS doesn’t normally break down degree holders into grads and postgrads, so it took me a while to find a suitable survey – the 1997 Income Distribution Survey.
These are the average weekly earnings, in today’s dollars.
No degree – Bottom quartile $401. Average $590. Top quartile $820.
Bachelor’s degree only – Bottom quartile $642. Average $898. Top quartile $1155.
Higher degree – Bottom quartile $833. Average $1122. Top quartile $1446.
Natasha’s story about "Tanya and Eddie" serves as a good reminder of the adage that data is not the plural of anecdote.