WASHINGTON, April 13, 2017 -- Rural Americans are becoming increasingly well educated, but they still trail urban residents in educational achievements by a distinct margin.
That’s according to the 2017 edition of Rural Education at a Glance, a report published by USDA’s Economic Research Service, which, among other things, found that from 2000 to 2015, the share of rural adults with at least a bachelor’s degree grew from 15 percent to 19 percent. At the same time, however, the share in urban areas, which tend to offer greater employment and earnings advantages, grew from 26 percent to 33 percent.
“Overall, the topline takeaway (from the report) is that educational attainment among rural adults is improving, and is continuing to improve over time,” Alexander Marre, an ERS research economist and the author of the report, said in an interview. “However,” he said, “there’s quite a bit of variation below the surface.”
Here are some of the report’s key findings:
--Educational attainment of racial and ethnic minority groups in rural area is increasing. The share of blacks and American Indians/Alaska Natives without high school diplomas fell from 41 and 32 percent, respectively, in 2000 to 24 and 20 percent in 2015, while the share of high school dropouts among rural Hispanics or Latinos fell from just over half to 39 percent. Still, these groups continued to be only half as likely as whites to have a college degree in 2015.
--Rural women are increasingly more educated than rural men. In 2000, a quarter of rural men and 23 percent of rural women did not have a high school diploma. By 2015, those figures had dropped to 16 percent for men and 13 percent for women. During 2000-15, the share of rural women with bachelor’s degrees or higher grew by 5 percentage points, versus 3 percentage points for rural men.
--While median earnings rise with educational attainment in both rural and urban areas, the rise appears to be slower in rural areas. In 2015, median earnings in rural areas were a fraction of those in urban areas for every level of education, with a larger earnings gap at higher levels of education.
--Earnings for adults in rural areas have gained since the recession in the late 2000s relative to urban workers across all educational attainment categories except for those with graduate or professional degrees. In 2007, median earnings for rural workers without a high school diploma were 91 percent of their urban counterparts; in 2015, earnings were roughly equal. Similarly, rural workers with a bachelor’s degree earned 77 percent of urban wages in 2007, and 80 percent in 2015. As the rural economy has recovered from recession, unemployment rates have fallen after peaking in 2010.
--Rural counties with the lowest levels of educational attainment face higher poverty, child poverty, unemployment, and population loss than other rural counties.
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