Education Pays 2016: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society documents the ways in which both individuals and society as a whole benefit from increased levels of education. The report examines differences in the earnings and employment patterns of U.S. adults with different levels of education. It compares health-related behaviors, reliance on public assistance programs, civic participation, and indicators of the well-being of the next generation. Financial benefits are easier to document than nonpecuniary benefits, but the latter may be as important to students themselves, as well as to the society in which they participate. In addition to the financial and nonpecuniary benefits of higher education, Education Pays 2016 examines the increases and the persistent disparities across demographic groups in college participation and completion.
How College Shapes Lives: Understanding the Issues builds on the information presented in Education Pays 2013: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society by discussing some of the ways in which the payoff of postsecondary education can be measured and providing insights into why there is confusion about that payoff, despite strong evidence. The report focuses on the variation in outcomes across individuals, helping to clarify that the existence of a high average payoff and the reality of significant benefits for most students are not inconsistent with disappointing outcomes for some. The aim of this report is to provide background and context for readers to help them become more active and constructive participants in discussions of the role of higher education in the United States.