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Educational Attainment

Variable Definitions:
College Graduation Rate: The percentage of the population ages 25 and older who have a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education

Less than High School: The percentage of the population ages 25 and older without a high school diploma

American Community Survey, 5-year estimates, Tables B14004, B15002

Years Available:*
2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

*Note: Each year of available data shown above is a 5-year estimate, or an average of data collected over a five year period. 5-year estimates are used to increase the reliability of the data at small geographies like neighborhoods and census tracts. The years shown on the NDSC map represent the final year of the five year average (e.g. “2010” represents 2006-2010 data, “2011” represents 2007-2011 data, and so on). For the most impactful comparison of data over time, the ACS recommends comparing non-overlapping years (e.g. 2010-14 with 2015-19).

Why are these variables important to measure?

College Graduation Rate
Obtaining a bachelor’s degree appears to be of growing social and economic importance, particularly for younger generations. Across age groups, individuals with bachelor’s degrees tend to have higher incomes, lower rates of unemployment, and are less likely to live in poverty than their counterparts without degrees.

Measuring education level is also an important tool for neighborhood development as communities with a large number of college graduates may have a different demand certain goods and services as well as different overall qualifications as a workforce.

Less than High School
Dropping out of high school substantially reduces an individual’s lifetime earnings, increases their chances of living in poverty, and may even contribute to lower health outcomes. Communities with more educated populations tend to have higher rates of economic productivity and growth.

Measuring the percentage of the population without a high school diploma in a neighborhood is a useful tool to determine the scope of social services like adult education and job training programs that are needed. Additionally, there may be an increased need for preventative drop out measures for current high school students in neighborhoods with high dropout rates.

Belfield, Clive R., Henry M. Levin, and Rachel Rosen. “The economic value of opportunity youth.” Civic Enterprises. Link

“Left behind in America: The nation’s dropout crisis.” Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University & The Alternative Schools Network, 5 May 2009. Link
Rodin, Judith and Eme Essien Lore. “Youth opportunity: Rethinking the next generation.” Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization, vol. 8, no. 1/2, 2013, pp. 11-17. Link
“The rising cost of not going to college.” Pew Research Center: Social & Demographic Trends, 11 February 2014. Link

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