A college degree is worth a decade of life. That’s according to a pair of economists, one a Nobel laureate, who first sounded the alarm on “deaths of despair” in the United States and have since become searing critics of the deep educational divide in our society. In a study, just published, in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Professors Anne Case and Sir Angus Deaton document the astonishing and growing gap in life expectancy between Americans with and without a college degree. Equally surprising, beginning around 1990, education has become a sharper differentiator than race when measuring American life expectancy.
A deeper dive makes the study even more shocking. The college degree wage premium has been generally accepted for some time. It reached 80% in 2010 and at this point, there is little question that those with a BA or better do better financially. This new study establishes that college graduates live longer as well. American life expectancy increased steadily between 1890 and 1990. This trend continued through 2020 for more educated Americans regardless of race or ethnicity. For the population as a whole, the improvement then stalled and for the two-thirds of Americans without a college degree, life expectancy is actually decreasing.