There's a piece in the Speccie that's taken me a day or two to get around to. When I was a youngster, one of the things that astonished me was the graduate premium - the earnings excess that a graduate could expect to accumulate during his / her lifetime against, say, a skilled plumber. At age 16 the lines on the graph started together, but the graduate's earnings remained flat for the following five years whilst the plumber's rose rapidly. In their 20s the plumber's earnings rose and the graduate's rose slowly to meet it. The lines crossed at about 30, after which the graduate earned more. At 45 the plumber's line hit a plateau and at 60 dropped sharply whilst the graduate's line continued to rise until 60 then flattened for the next ten or fifteen years. The area between the lines - the balance between the negative and the positive - was the lifetime value of the graduate premium.
Forgive me for the somewhat tedious foregoing. The point is, when I learned of it, the graduate premium was an astonishing figure, something in excess of £1m even at the NPV of the 1980s. The current table in the Speccie shows something far less attractive, with a mid-range graduate barely making an extra £150k over a working lifetime. Either plumbers are earning a damn site more than they used to, or the GP has been seriously eroded. £150k over a (now) 50 year working life is £3k a year - not worth getting out of bed for.
Of course, back then when only 5% of us rather than 50% as now went on to higher education we also had the choice to become plumbers. I'm not sure that today's youngsters even have that choice any more.