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Published: Feb 14, 2022 5 min read
Collage of Graduates in line with details from a dollar bill in the background
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Typical young workers with college degrees now outearn their high-school-graduate counterparts by a record-high $22,000 per year.

According to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the median annual wage for a full-time worker ages 22 to 27 with a high school diploma is $30,000. For a full-time worker with a bachelor's degree, it's $52,000.

The difference marks a pay gap of $22,000 — the highest on record with the New York Fed, which tracks earnings going back to 1990.

The findings are part of the new report on recent college graduates. The report also looks at unemployment, underemployment and wages for workers with different college majors.

In terms of median wages, every major analyzed by the New York Fed outearned the high school diploma. Of course, there are always exceptions, and some whose educations stopped after high school wind up making more money than college grads. A Georgetown University study found that 16% of workers with only a high school diploma earn more than half of workers with bachelor's degrees.

Overall, though, the return on investment for a college degree is substantial — worth upwards of $800,000 or more in increased earnings over a lifetime.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the new report shows that some college majors — like those in the STEM fields — fare much better than others in terms of earnings. The difference in earnings among majors highlights a massive income gap of its own.