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An in-depth look at regional and national economic trends that matter to the Fifth District. Updates will be published several times a month.

Regional Matters

October 30, 2018

2017 Educational Attainment Data Are Released

Article by: Joseph Mengedoth

Last month, the Census Bureau released the 2017 American Community Survey (one-year estimates), which includes data on educational attainment for the over-25 population and their employment status and median earnings. In the U.S. as a whole and compared to 2016, the share of the over-25 population with a four-year college degree or higher increased, while the shares with some college, a high school diploma only, or less than high school completion all decreased. Unemployment rates declined across all attainment levels in the United States, and median earnings increased across all educational levels too. However, those trends were not consistent across states in the Fifth District.

Among Fifth District jurisdictions, the share of the over-25 population with a college degree or higher increased everywhere except West Virginia, where the share declined from 20.8 percent to 20.2 percent, or 0.6 percentage point. (See charts below.) Changes in the population with a high school degree or some college varied across states, but there was a notable increase in West Virginia for the share with a high school diploma only, which rose 1.5 percentage points. Meanwhile, on the low end of the educational attainment spectrum, the population shares with less than a high school diploma declined in every jurisdiction except D.C. and Maryland, where the shares increased slightly to 9.8 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively, but remained below the national figure of 12.0 percent.

Across Fifth District jurisdictions, populations with higher levels of education also had lower unemployment; however, changes in unemployment rates by educational attainment in 2017 varied within jurisdictions. For example, in D.C., the unemployment rate for the over-25 population with a bachelor's degree or higher increased 0.9 percentage point to 3.3 percent. In South Carolina, the same population segment saw unemployment rise from 2.2 percent in 2016 to 2.4 percent. The remaining jurisdictions saw a decline in unemployment for those with at least a bachelor's degree. Meanwhile, those with less than a high school diploma experienced higher unemployment rates in 2017 in D.C., Maryland, and South Carolina. (See charts below.)

Median earnings increased for almost every group among Fifth District jurisdictions, with the exceptions of those with a bachelor's degree in D.C. and two groups in West Virginia (those with less than high school and those with a graduate degree or higher.) The largest increases in median earnings came from two segments of D.C.’s population. Those with less than a high school education saw median earnings increase 20.4 percent (from $22,167 to $26,686) while those with some college or an associate's degree saw an increase of 16.9 percent ($35,313 to $41,297).

Although changes in educational attainment, employment status, and median earnings were inconsistent across states, most population groups saw lower unemployment and higher median earnings. And those with higher levels of educational attainment continued to report lower unemployment rates and higher median earnings than those with lower levels of educational attainment.


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Views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond or the Federal Reserve System.

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