Michael Hout is Natalie Cohen professor of sociology and demography at the University of California, Berkeley. This article was made possible with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University.
Americans put great stock in the promise of a college education. Most adults see a degree as important for personal success, and they are right. Social and economic data confirm that individuals benefit from college. Communities gain, too. College graduates are more likely to stay employed, buy houses, marry, pay taxes, avoid welfare, commit fewer crimes, volunteer for socially useful causes, vote, be happier and healthier, and live longer.