Southern Arizona Communities Education Report 2017

Author(s):
Jennifer Pullen, Research Economist
Published:
03-28-2019

Educational attainment rates varied substantially across Southern Arizona in 2017. Hereafter, when discussing multiple cities, towns, or census designated places (CDP) the general term communities will be used. This article explores 41 of the largest communities within Cochise, Pima, Pinal, Greenlee, Graham, Santa Cruz, and Yuma counties. Due to the importance of mining in Greenlee County, we also include three nearby communities in New Mexico.

In 2017, the Catalina Foothills CDP posted the highest percentage of residents aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or better at 66.1%. This was more than double the state’s rate of 28.4% and the U.S. rate of 30.9%. The city of South Tucson posted the lowest rate at 4.2%. Figure 1 shows the percentage of those aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or better for the Southern Arizona communities. 

Figure 1: Percent of Population 25 Years and Older with a Bachelor's Degree or Better (2017)

Educational attainment is a critical component of a regions 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 2017, Willcox had a relatively high share of residents who reported a high school degree as their highest educational level at 44.1% when compared to other Southern Arizona communities and the state of Arizona (24.2%). The Catalina Foothills CDP had the highest share of residents with a bachelor’s degree or better at 66.1%, when this is broken down into those with just a bachelor’s degree (30.9%) and those with a graduate or professional degree (35.2%), Catalina Foothills ranked first in both. Several other communities in Southern Arizona had a large share of residents with a bachelor’s degree including the Tanque Verde CDP (27.7%), the town of Oro Valley (27.0%), and the Corona de Tucson CDP (26.2%). Figures 2a and 2b show the shares of educational attainment by level for each of the Southern Arizona communities.

Figure 2a: Educational Attainment by Level (2017)

Figure 2b: Educational Attainment by Level (2017)

Substantial variation exists when comparing those with a bachelor’s degree or higher by age. Predominantly, the 25 to 34 year old age group had low college attainment levels when compared to both the U.S. and amongst the other age groups. For instance, the city of Eloy posted 1.5%, while the U.S. rate was 34.4% and the state’s rate was 27.4%. Further, of the 41 communities, 24 posted lower college attainment rates than the state in the 25 to 34 year old age group. Overall, the Catalina Foothills CDP had the highest college attainment rates of all the age groups at 55.3% for 25-34 year olds, 69.8% for 35-44 year olds, 69.5% for 45-64 year olds, and 64.2% for those 65 years and older. Data for each of the Southern Arizona communities is available in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Percent of Population with a Bachelor's Degree or Better by Age (2017)

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 Ajo CDP, the poverty rate for those with less than a high school degree was 49.1%, 28.5% for those with a high school degree, 25.0% for those with some college, and 11.9% for those with a bachelor’s degree or better. This trend holds for communities such as the city of Tucson, the Flowing Wells CDP, and the town of Marana as well as for the other Southern Arizona communities. Figure 4 highlights the poverty rate by educational attainment for each of the 41 Southern Arizona communities.

Figure 4: Poverty Rate by Level of Educational Attainment for Those 25 Years and Older (2017)

Educational attainment rates vary significantly by ethnicity across the Southern Arizona communities. The Catalina Foothills CDP had the highest college attainment rates for both Hispanics and white, non-Hispanics at 49.3% and 67.2% respectively. Substantial variation exists for many of the Southern Arizona communities between Hispanics and white, non-Hispanics including communities such as the city of Bisbee and the Corona de Tucson CDP. The average difference between Hispanics and white, non-Hispanics for all of the Southern Arizona communities was 15.0 percentage points. This was less than the U.S. difference of 19.3 percentage points. See Figure 5 for the four-year educational attainment rate by ethnicity for the Southern Arizona communities.

Figure 5: Percent of Population 25 and Older with a Bachelor's Degree or Better by Ethnicity (2017)

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 2013 through 2017 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).