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Key to wealth? More education, study says

Americans with an advanced degree are 50 times more likely to become millionaires than those without a high school diploma, according to a new study.

In a paper, William Emmons, a senior economic advisor, and Bryan Noeth, a lead policy analyst, both at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis' Center for Household Financial Stability, found that wealth and income is "strongly linked" with education.


The likelihood of a family without a high school diploma having at least $1 million in wealth in 2013 was 1 in 110, compared with 1 in 20 for high school graduates. It was 1 in 4.6 for college graduates and 1 in 2.6 for families with a professional/graduate degree, according to the study.

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The median family without a high school diploma had 81 percent less income and 95 percent less wealth in 2013 than the median family with a graduate/professional degree. The median income for those without a high school diploma in 2013 was $22,320, down 1 percent from 1989; for those with such a diploma, it was $41,190, down 16 percent.

For those with a two- or four-year degree, median income was $76,293, down 5 percent, and for those with an advanced degree median income was $116,265, up 4 percent. (All dollar amounts are adjusted for inflation.)

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Between 1989 and 2013, accumulated wealth increased 45 percent for families with a professional/graduate degree, to $689,100. It increased by 3 percent for those with a college degree, while dropping by 36 percent for those with only a high school diploma and 44 percent for those without a high school diploma.

Granted, other factors can play a role in the link between wealth and education, including family wealth and inheritances. And there is no guarantee that more education brings more wealth. But the study said that education and wealth "are highly correlated" and are likely to become stronger in the coming years.

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