College Guide


October 21, 2010 2:06 PM The Country’s Education Rate

By Daniel Luzer

It’s no great surprise that there’s a big difference between the earnings of people who went to college and people who didn’t. According to the latest available data, the average high-school graduate earns $25,900 a year while the average college graduate earns much more, $45,400 annually. Increasingly, however, it looks like educated people are clustering in a few places while people without bachelor’s degrees populate the rest of the country.

According to a piece in the Daily Yonder, a blog about rural issues:

The United States is segregating by education. Americans are better educated now than ever, but the distribution of people with college degrees is growing increasingly unequal.
And the clustering of people with higher education is creating greater disparities in regional incomes and unemployment. The places with high percentages of educated adults do better economically than do the counties with low proportions of adults with B.A. degrees. Better educated populations have higher incomes and lower unemployment. In general, rural areas are falling behind the cities in terms of the percent of their adult populations with at least a college (B.A.) degree.

What’s more, the country is apparently growing a lot more segregated by education. This is a 20-year old map of the United States:


And here’s the country today [sic]:


(Images from the Daily Yonder article.) Over time, more and more of the country seems to fall behind the national education average.

Of course, this is just land, not citizens. Since educated people tend to congregate in cities, the dark blue areas of the country, representing counties with larger portions of educated people, reflect a small area of land and a great deal of people.

Still, as the United States increasingly seems interested in discussing the importance of getting more people through college, it’s odd to note that most of the land in this country is actually occupied by a rather poorly educated population of people.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • Crissa on October 22, 2010 5:48 AM:

    Yeah, this definitely needs to be on the blotchy population sized map. But there's still a significant drain going on. I wonder if this represents a loss in Ag degrees or something...

  • Anonymous on October 25, 2010 6:18 PM:

    "Over time, more and more of the country seems to fall behind the national education average."

    First, that sentence makes no sense.

    Second, the "average" if I read your chart right, went from roughly 20% with a college degree in 1990 to about 27% in 2009. That seems like a pretty good gain to me.

    Finally, it's almost impossible to quickly compare your two diagrams. The "Well Below Average" category in the 2009 chart (0-17%) almost completely encompasses both the Well Below (0-10%) and Below Average (10-20%) categories from 1990. So what is the point you're trying to make?

  • Washington Monthly on October 25, 2010 6:48 PM:

    More and more of the PHYSICAL LAND MASS of the country falls behind the national education average.

    This is about the education rate relative to the average. If 20% of the population of one county had a bachelor's degree in 1990 and 22% of the population of one that same county had a bachelor's degree in 2009 that would be a gain in the county. The county would be not at all below average in 1990 and very below average in 2009. That would indicate that the county was falling behind the rest of the country even though it was, yes, making gains relative to its own history.

  • Edgyone on August 16, 2012 9:41 PM:

    stupid people vote republican, this proves it.