At National Review, Charles C.W. Cooke explains the hard numbers that put into perspective what college is, and isn’t worth. For instance, an electrician is likely to earn more than a college graduate who works in English literature.
The median income of an American farmer is $43,945, which is higher than the median income of Americans with bachelor’s degrees in early-childhood education ($39,000), human services and community organization ($41,000), and elementary education ($43,000). The median income of an American mechanic is $46,919, which is higher than the median income of Americans with bachelor’s degrees in drama ($45,000) and art and music ($46,000). The median income of an American plumber is $52,404, which is higher than the median income of Americans with bachelor’s degrees in art history ($49,000), humanities ($49,000), anthropology ($49,000), sociology ($51,000), ethnic and civilization studies ($51,000), art and graphic design ($51,000), botany ($52,000), and modern languages ($52,000). The median income of an American electrician is $54,327, which is higher than the median income of Americans with bachelor’s degrees in English literature ($53,000), advertising and public relations ($54,000), history ($54,000), and communications ($54,000). The median income of an American home builder is $59,275, which is higher than the median income of Americans with bachelor’s degrees in journalism ($56,000) and geography ($58,000).
To look into these numbers is to be surprised by how much distance exists in America between jobs that pay well and jobs that enjoy widespread cultural prestige. In 2015, truckers who worked for private fleets made a median income of $73,000 — a little more than the median income for Americans with master’s degrees. Which . . . well, which makes our cultural monomania seem a little odd — especially when one considers that, per the American Trucking Association, there is currently a shortage of truck drivers to the tune of around 60,000 positions. And, of course, there are many fields of employment for which college attendance is a prerequisite — and should be. But we might consider rebalancing our cultural attention a touch. Can you remember the last time that a character in a teen movie left school and began an apprenticeship? Can you recall the last time an advertisement depicted someone saving up their pennies to buy the Ford F-150 they needed to start their construction company? Can you recollect the last time that a TV show made its Generic Aspirational Character the owner of a plumbing firm rather than a lawyer? We throw big parties for people who finish their master’s degrees. We make jokes about people who drive trucks. Why?
Read more here.
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