Southern Arizona Cities & Towns Education Report 2015

Author(s):
Jennifer Pullen, Research Economist
Published:
07-20-2017

Educational attainment rates varied substantially across Southern Arizona in 2015. The town of Oro Valley posted the highest percentage of residents aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or better at 50.6%, this was nearly double the state’s rate of 27.5% and significantly higher than the U.S. rate of 29.8%. The city of South Tucson posted the lowest rate at 1.3%. Figure 1 shows the percentage of those aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or better for the most populous places in Southern Arizona.

Figure 1: Percent of Population 25 Years and Older with a Bachelor's Degree or Better (2015)

Educational attainment is a critical component of a region's potential growth in population, jobs, and long-run income. Regions with a higher concentration of highly educated residents tend to perform better across many socioeconomic indicators such as poverty, unemployment, productivity, and crime rates. Additionally, less educated residents also tend to earn higher wages in regions with a larger concentration of college graduates.

In 2015, Willcox had a relatively high share of residents who reported a high school degree as their highest educational level at 40.5% when compared to other Southern Arizona cities and the state of Arizona (24.4%). The town of Oro Valley had the highest share of residents with a bachelor’s degree or better at 50.6%, when this is broken down into those with just a bachelor’s degree (28.8%) and those with a graduate or professional degree (21.8%), Oro Valley ranked first in both. Several other cities in Southern Arizona had a large share of residents with a bachelor’s degree including Marana (26.1%), Green Valley (24.1%), and Sahuarita (23.0%). Figures 2a and 2b show the shares of educational attainment by level for each of the Southern Arizona cities.

Figure 2a: Educational Attainment by Level (2015)

Figure 2b: Educational Attainment by Level (2015)

Substantial variation exists when comparing those with a bachelor’s degree or higher by age. Predominantly, the 65 and older age group had high college attainment levels across Southern Arizona when compared to both the U.S. and amongst the other age groups. Oro Valley had the highest college attainment rates of all the age groups except the 25-34 year olds where it ranked 2nd. Marana had the highest college attainment rate amongst 25-34 year olds at 44.8%. Data for each of the Southern Arizona cities is available in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Percent of Population with a Bachelor's Degree or Better by Age (2015)

Regions with a higher concentration of highly educated residents tend to have lower poverty rates. When exploring the poverty rate by educational attainment we find that those with a bachelor’s degree or higher are significantly less likely to live in poverty. For example, in the city of Maricopa the poverty rate for those with less than a high school degree was 17.1%, 8.8% for those with a high school degree, 6.8% for those with some college, and 3.8% for those with a bachelor’s degree or better. This trend holds for all of the cities in Southern Arizona. Figure 4 highlights the poverty rate by educational attainment for each of the Southern Arizona cities.

Figure 4: Poverty Rate by Level of Educational Attainment for Those 25 Years and Older (2015)

Educational attainment rates vary significantly by ethnicity across the Southern Arizona cities. Oro Valley had the highest college attainment rates for both Hispanics and white, non-Hispanics at 52.4% and 34.2% respectively. Substantial variation exists for many of the Southern Arizona cities between Hispanics and white, non-Hispanics with an average difference of 12.8 percentage points. However, this was less than the U.S. difference of 18.9 percentage points. See Figure 5 for the four-year educational attainment rate by ethnicity for the Southern Arizona cities.  

Figure 5: Percent of Population 25 and Older with a Bachelor's Degree or Better by Ethnicity (2015)

Educational attainment reflects the share of the population age 25 and older with a given level of education. Respondents report the highest level of education completed. The data come from five-year estimates for 2010 through 2015 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).