The Payoff from College: Money Is Only Part of It

Last Updated Nov 23, 2009 10:05 AM EST

You don't need me to tell you that the more years of schooling you have, the more money you are likely to earn. But exactly how good an investment is a college education? Probably the best you can make for yourself or someone else-in large part because the benefits grow over an entire lifetime. According to estimates by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the return on an investment in higher education is between 20 and 30 percent. In my last post, I looked into whether there was an additional financial payoff to sending your kid to a selective college over a merely average one, and I learned that while there are studies on both sides of the issue, the preponderance of evidence lines up on the side of selective schools. (Guess what we're going through in my family? Hello, FAFSA.)

But wait, as they say in the commercials: There's more. I also came across this charming NBER study that says the non-financial payoff to education is at least as great as the monetary one. As the charts below show, the better educated you are, the happier, healthier, and more trusting you're likely to be, and the more solid your marriage. I wonder if it's too late to go back for my Ph.D.?

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