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How Long Will You Live And How Much Will You Make?

Old man thinking
Old man thinking

Have you been wanting to go back to school but keep putting it off? Do it. It'll be good for you.

The United Wayhas unveiled a new calculator today which predicts how one's level of education can indicate future income and lifespan. This calculator actually does it on a county-by-county basis for the entire U.S.

On a big picture level, the "Common Good Forecaster", which United Way funded with help from the American Human Development Project, claims that if every American had a high school diploma, the nation's life expectancy would rise by two years, and our average income earned over a lifetime would increase $400,000.

No one's surprised that the more education you have, the more money you make. As for increasing life expectancy, they base it on the theory that the more money you make (because of more education), the more access you have to good healthcare and more effective drugs, among other things.

On a county-by-county level, the United Way cites a couple of examples:

  • If every adult in Bronx County, New York, graduated from college, then county residents would live, on average, four years longer.
  • If all adults without a high school diploma in West Virginia had completed high school, then 125 more babies would be born normal weight.

I tried the calculator on my own county, Ventura, California. Here the average annual income is $40,000, while there is a 4.5 percent unemployment rate, and seven percent of county residents live below the poverty level.

The average life expectancy is 80.3 years.

However, if everyone in Ventura County moved up one level of education, the average life expectancy would jump to 82 years, average income would jump 25 percent to over $50,000, an entire percentage point would be shaved off the unemployment rate, and the poverty rate would drop nearly in half to four percent.

Currently the longest lifespan in California is north of San Francisco in Marin County at 83 years (I have two brothers who live there, lucky dogs). I could not find anyone who lives longer, though I started to glaze over checking every county in America. The shortest lifespan in California is inland, in Yuba County, at only 74.5 years, one of the lowest rates in the nation.

Is the Common Good Forecasteraccurate? I don't know. This is all part of United Way'sgoal to cut the high school dropout rate in half over the next decade. At least it's cool to play with the calculator, and it makes me wish, once again, that I lived in Marin.

Who's Living Large And Living Well:

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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