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College degree not worth what it was

March 7, 2012: 4:53 PM ET
college degree

Entry-level wages have fallen for college graduates.

Today's college grads are earning far less than their older siblings coming out of school.

Entry level wages for male college graduates fell to an average of $21.68 an hour last year, down 11% from 2001, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning group.

Women, meanwhile, saw their average hourly wage drop to $18.80, down 7.6%.

"Young college graduates who finished their education in the last five years or so are earning significantly less than their older brothers and sisters who graduated in the late 1990s," the report found.

These drops contrast with a surge in entry-level wages between 1995 and 2000, when men's earnings soared by 20% and women's by 11%.

Looking at those with just a high school diploma, men saw their earnings drop 10% to $11.68. But women with only a high school degree saw their earnings drop 9% to $9.92.

The Great Recession has hit younger workers particularly hard. The unemployment rate for those ages 16 to 24 stands at 16%, while it's just 7.4% for those age 25 to 54.

And the pain can last beyond the economic downturn, as the institute's numbers show. It can take years for young workers to get their careers and earnings on track after graduation, leading some experts to dub young adults "the lost generation."

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About This Author
Tami Luhby
Tami Luhby
Senior writer, CNNMoney

Tami Luhby is a senior writer at CNNMoney and covers income inequality, state fiscal problems, unemployment, housing policy and other economic issues. Luhby previously covered personal finance for Newsday and banking for Crain's New York Business.

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