For America's poor, the decision to forego college won't kill all chance of moving up the economic ladder. It just severely worsens the odds.

Indeed, for those born into the poorest fifth of American families, the obtainment of a college degree gives you an 80 percent chance of bettering your economic status over the course of a lifetime. Opt not to graduate college, and those odds drop to 55 percent, according to a new U.S. Treasury Department report “The Economic Case for Higher Education” (h/t The New York Times).

See the chart on intergenerational mobility below:

college degree

The weekly earnings of people with a bachelors degree are an average of 64 percent higher than those workers with only a high school diploma, the report also found. Likewise, unemployment rates are significantly higher among those without a college degree.

The report isn’t the only one to show the economic benefits of a college education. Those with a bachelors degree earn about $1 million more over their lifetimes than those without one, according to a recent Georgetown study. Currently, the median salary for college graduates is $42,000, compared to just $26,364 for all Americans in 2010, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, WZZM reports.

But these days a college degree is no guarantee of economic prosperity, especially among the nation’s youngest. The Great Recession has taken a significant toll on college graduates, increasing youth unemployment substantially. Of all those graduating since 2006, only 51 percent have a full-time job, according to a Rutgers University study. Furthermore, college graduates and non-graduates alike are equally susceptible to long-term joblessness once unemployed.

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  • Power Plant Operators

    Median Annual Wage (May 2010): $63,080 Projected Job Openings (2010-2020): 14,400 Work Experience: None On-The-Job Training: Long-term on-the-job training

  • Fashion Designers

    Median Annual Wage (May 2010): $64,530 Projected Job Openings (2010-2020): 6,700 Work Experience: None On-The-Job Training: Long-term on-the-job training

  • Detectives And Criminal Investigators

    Median Annual Wage (May 2010): $68,820 Projected Job Openings (2010-2020): 30,100 Work Experience: 1 to 5 years On-The-Job Training: Moderate-term on-the-job training

  • Supervisors Of Non-Retail Sales Workers

    Median Annual Wage (May 2010): $68,880 Projected Job Openings (2010-2020): 123,500 Work Experience: More than 5 years On-The-Job Training: None

  • Power Distributors And Dispatchers

    Median Annual Wage (May 2010): $68,900 Projected Job Openings (2010-2020): 3,600 Work Experience: None On-The-Job Training: Long-term on-the-job training

  • Elevator Installers And Repairers

    Median Annual Wage (May 2010): $70,910 Projected Job Openings (2010-2020): 8,200 Work Experience: None On-The-Job Training: Apprenticeship

  • Nuclear Power Reactor Operators

    Median Annual Wage (May 2010): $75,650 Projected Job Openings (2010-2020): 2,000 Work Experience: None On-The-Job Training: Long-term on-the-job training

  • Administrative Services Managers

    Median Annual Wage (May 2010): $77,890 Projected Job Openings (2010-2020): 99,800 Work Experience: 1 to 5 years On-The-Job Training: None

  • Supervisors Of Police And Detectives

    Median Annual Wage (May 2010): $78,260 Projected Job Openings (2010-2020): 38,700 Work Experience: 1 to 5 years On-The-Job Training: Moderate-term on-the-job training

  • Transportation, Storage And Distribution Managers

    Median Annual Wage (May 2010): $80,210 Projected Job Openings (2010-2020): 33,700 Work Experience: More than 5 years On-The-Job Training: None

  • Managers

    Median Annual Wage (May 2010): $96,450 Projected Job Openings (2010-2020): 249,400 Work Experience: 1 to 5 years On-The-Job Training: None