Will a College Degree Increase Your Odds of Becoming Wealthy? Gallup Poll Finds Half of the Wealthiest 1% of Americans Have a Graduate Degree


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If you want to be rich, you ought to consider getting a graduate degree. According to recent polling data, carrying a higher level of education is a common characteristic among the wealthiest 1% of Americans.


The wealthiest 1% in the US have come to the forefront of American politics over the last year. Politicians and party activists are heatedly debating whether US’ richest need to foot a larger tax bill, Gallup pulled together polling data to identify key characteristics about the nation’s wealthiest. Although the aim was to identify party affiliation, Gallup also pulled together statics about the wealthiest’s education level.

The results are interesting in light of a past article I penned here on Smart Family Finance.

Beating the Odds: Will College Make You Wealthy?

In September, I featured an article on a recent Georgetown Study aimed at measuring wealth and educational attainment. The study was able to calculate the odds of one educational demographic out-earning workers with a higher level of education. As a result, we learned that those with a high school diploma have a one in seven change of out earning those with a bachelor’s degree.

The study also found workers with a higher level of education had better odds at becoming wealthy.

Half of the Wealthiest 1% of Americans have a Graduate Degree

One of the most striking characteristics of the wealthiest Americans was that nearly half, or to be precise 49%, held graduate degrees. A further breakdown of wealth and education showed that 23%of the wealthiest held bachelor’s degrees and only 8%had a high school diploma or less. Unfortunately, there was no information on whether America’s wealthiest obtained their degrees before or after reaching the upper echelons of wealth.

15 Out of 1,000 with Graduate Degree Make it to the Wealthiest 1%

This not to say everyone with a graduate degree will become uber rich and with the definition of the top 1% being those that earn $500,000 per year, I’d be more than willing to settle for less. Gallup found that only 1.5% of all those with graduate degrees make it to the top 1%. To put that into odds, that is 15 out of 1,000 Americans with graduate degrees will make it to the top 1%.

However, those odds decrease dramatically with a lower level of education. Only 8 in 1,000 bachelor’s degree graduates will make it to the top 1%. For all lower levels of education combined, the odds drop to 3 out of 1,000. For comparison, the odds of making a jackpot on the average slot machine are one in 262,144.

I’m not saying that a college education should be pushed on every young American. However, it is important to note that your chances of earning more than average compensation improves with the more education you attain.

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