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These posts examine local, regional and national data that matter to the Fifth District economy and our communities.

Educational Attainment in the Fifth District

Regional Matters
January 29, 2020

According to the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey estimates, educational attainment in the Fifth District continued to rise in 2018. For example, 75.5 percent of the adult population age 25 and older in the District of Columbia had at least some college education or an associate’s degree—more than any state in the Fifth District and up from 73 percent in 2017. In West Virginia, which has the lowest educational attainment in the Fifth District, the share of the population with at least some college or an associate’s degree increased 2.2 percentage points to 48.1 percent. In fact, all five Fifth District states and the District of Columbia saw a greater share of the population 25 and older realize at least some college education when compared to the 2017 figures.

Despite overall increases in educational attainment at the state level, the Fifth District is characterized by large differences in educational attainment across counties, particularly for four-year and advanced degrees. For example, in Falls Church City, Va., which is part of the Washington, D.C. metro area, the share of residents age 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 78.5 percent. In contrast, 5.4 percent of the population in rural McDowell County, W.Va., had that level of attainment. Although most Fifth District counties have a smaller share of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher than the national share of 32.6 percent, there are pockets of very high educational attainment compared to the nation. See chart below.

There are also large differences in unemployment rates and median earnings across Fifth District jurisdictions and across educational levels. For instance, in the District of Columbia, the unemployment rate for the population with less than a high school diploma was 19.2 percent—more than double the national average for the same group. Comparatively, the unemployment rate for this group in Virginia was 5.9 percent.

With respect to median earnings, in West Virginia, there is a $30,248 gap between people with a graduate degree or higher and no high school diploma. In other states, that difference is greater. For example, in Maryland, median earnings for individuals with an advanced degree were $59,030 greater than those who had not completed high school. For detailed charts for all Fifth District jurisdictions, including median earnings by attainment level, demographic breakouts, and more, take a look at our Educational Attainment report.

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