Lewis Diuguid

Back-to-school costs can dig deep deep holes in parents’ wallets, but it is worth it

Chiefs Derrick Johnson hands out backpacks at Arrowhead Stadium

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson handed out 500 backpacks with school supplies in them, during his third annual Gearing Up! Back to School Program at Arrowhead Stadium.
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Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson handed out 500 backpacks with school supplies in them, during his third annual Gearing Up! Back to School Program at Arrowhead Stadium.

The return of children to the classroom this time of year after a long summer off is actually a cash-ringing bonanza for businesses in the United States, according to the U.S. Census.

Because kids usually outgrow clothes from the previous year or fickle fashions change, family clothing stores rake in a lot of dough. In August 2015 it amounted to $8.8 billion. Sales at bookstores that month were estimated at $1.6 billion.

The United States in 2014 had 28,138 family clothing stores. For back-to-school shopping, the choices included 7,351 children and infant clothing stores, 25,214 shoe stores, 6,823 office supply and stationery stores, 6,888 bookstores and 7,898 department stores.

Schools cost money, too. The U.S. population shift from cities to suburbs results in new school construction as suburban districts try to keep up with the changing demographics. Private and public educational construction in 2015 amounted to $83.5 billion.

Exports and imports come into play with supplies for schools. In 2015, the U.S. imported $17.7 million in rubber erasers with the bulk, $10.3 million, coming from China.

But the U.S. also exported $2.6 million in rubber erasers. Mexico was America’s leading customer, purchasing $1.5 million in erasers.

The U.S. imported $256.9 million in binders and folders in 2015.

Education involves a lot of people. In October 2014, 77.2 million children and adults were enrolled in preschool to college classes. That’s 24 percent of the U.S. population.

The preschool to 12th-grade enrollment in 2013 was 48.3 million people, or 15 percent of the U.S. population. In 2014, the spending per pupil for elementary and secondary public schools was $11,009.

In October 2014, 79.3 percent of children ages 3 to 6 were enrolled in school. At that time, 25.6 percent of elementary and high school students had at least one foreign-born parent, and 11.8 million children ages 5 to 17 spoke a language other than English at home — 8.5 million of them spoke Spanish at home.

In 2014, the U.S. had 4,688 colleges, universities and professional schools as well as 1,083 junior colleges. Not everyone who goes to college enters right out of high school. In the U.S. 14.7 percent were nontraditional students age 35 and older in October 2014; 34.5 percent attended school part time.

In 2014, 40 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college or graduate school in 2014. Some had jobs while going to college. In 2011, 52.1 percent of the employed students in college worked less than full-time, year-round jobs.

That same year, 3.1 million employed high school students worked less than full-time, year-round jobs, although 146,000 students in high school were employed full time and year round.

The census reports that 13.1 million people received bachelor’s degrees in business in 2014, or 20.4 percent of the population with undergraduate diplomas. That was followed by education at 13 percent; science and engineering at 9.2 percent; engineering at 7.8 percent; social sciences at 7.7 percent; biological, agricultural and environmental sciences at 6.1 percent; and liberal arts and history at 5 percent.

It’s pretty stunning to note that in 2012, 74.3 percent of the people who had bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering or math — commonly known as the now-popular STEM fields — were not employed in STEM occupations.

Although it costs a lot to go back to school, the benefits of doing well and going to college are worth it. In 2014, the average full-time, year-round workers age 18 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned $83,417 a year. The mean earnings for workers with a bachelor’s degree was $72,896.

The mean earnings for full-time, year-round workers with a high school diploma or the equivalency was $42,094. Workers with less than a ninth-grade education only earned on average $31,288 on average.

In the long run, it pays to stay in school.