File photo of Thomas Edison State College Commencement ceremony at Sun National Bank Center in Trenton last year. A new study shows earning a degree continues to pay off in old age. (Andrew Miller/For The Times of Trenton)
Still working? Study finds college degrees pay off– even after age 75 By Kelly Heyboer/ The Star-Ledger
Earning a college degree can translate into more cash well into old age — though even elderly women continue to earn less than men, according to a new study.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit group, analyzed U.S. Census data for older workers to determine if a college education continued to raise incomes. The data showed those with degrees beyond high school worked more and earned more per hour at older ages than less-educated workers.
There are currently more than 5 million Americans over age 65 still working. They make up about 4 percent of the workforce and many workers need to keep working because they lack the cash to retire, the study said.
“Employment and earnings past the traditional retirement age have become more important to the well-being of older Americans in part due to the increased retirement risk flowing from the shift away from defined benefit toward defined contribution pensions,” wrote Heidi Hartmann and Jeff Hayes, the study’s authors.
Older workers with bachelor’s degrees earn two to nearly three times more than those with high school educations or less, the study found. Those with advanced degrees, including master’s and doctorates, earn three to five times more than those without college degrees.
The report, titled “How Education Pays Off for Older Americans,” comes out as some critics are questioning whether rapidly-rising tuition and ballooning student debt are diminishing the financial value of earning a college degree for today’s students.
The study also found women continue to earn less than men as they age. Older women with the highest degrees — master’s, doctorates or professional degrees — earn similar salaries as men of the same age with bachelor’s degrees.
Some workers are also working well beyond retirement age. The research found men older than age 75 are often working in high-paying occupations, including physicians and surgeons (earning an average of $64 per hour), lawyers and judges (at $59.13 per hour), and chief executives and legislators (at $48 per hour).
Most women still working over age 75 were in much lower-paying jobs. The highest-paying job on the top 10 list for women was a secretary and receptionist, averaging $15.37 per hour.