Southern Arizona Communities Education Report 2019

Author(s)
Beatriz Del Campo-Carmona, Research Economist
Published
11-08-2021

Educational attainment rates varied substantially across Southern Arizona in 2019. 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 2019, the Catalina Foothills CDP posted the highest percentage of residents aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or better at 67.8%. This was more than double the state’s rate of 29.5% and the U.S. rate of 32.1%. The city of South Tucson posted the lowest rate at 5.4%. 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: Population 25+ with a Bachelor's Degree or Higher (2019)

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 2019, Willcox had a relatively high share of residents who reported a high school degree as their highest educational level at 44.1% compared to other Southern Arizona communities and the state of Arizona (23.9%). The Catalina Foothills CDP had the highest share of residents with a bachelor’s degree or better at 67.8%. When this is broken down into those with just a bachelor’s degree (31.7%) and those with a graduate or professional degree (36.1%), 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 (28.6%), the town of Marana (27.7%), and the town of Oro Valley (27.0%) Figures 2 show the shares of educational attainment by level for each of the Southern Arizona communities.

Figure 2: Population 25+ by Level of Education (2019)

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 1.0%, while the U.S. rate was 35.7% and the state’s rate was 28.3%. 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 58.4% for 25–34-year-olds, 74.3% for 35–44-year-olds, 70.4% for 45–64-year-olds, and 65.5% for those 65 years and older. Data for each of the Southern Arizona communities are available in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Population 25+ with a Bachelor's Degree or Higher by Age (2019)

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 Flowing Wells CDP, the poverty rate for those with less than a high school degree was 38.3%, 20.3% for those with a high school degree, 15.4% for those with some college, and 6.4% for those with a bachelor’s degree or better. This trend holds for communities such as the city of Tucson and the town of Florence, as well as for most other Southern Arizona communities. The poverty rate by educational attainment in Green Valley is unique, and on average lower, compared to many of the other communities in Southern Arizona, due to the high percentage of retirees in this CDP and therefore of individuals with a fixed retirement income. Figure 4 highlights the poverty rate by educational attainment for each of the 41 Southern Arizona communities.

Figure 4: Poverty Rate for Population 25+ by Level of Education (2019)

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 64.7% and 67.4%, respectively. Substantial variation exists for many of the Southern Arizona communities between Hispanics and White, non-Hispanics, including communities such as the town of Silver City and the city of Bisbee. The average difference between Hispanics and White, non-Hispanics for all of the Southern Arizona communities was 12.8 percentage points. This was less than the U.S. difference of 19.4 percentage points. See Figure 5 for the four-year educational attainment rate by race and ethnicity for the Southern Arizona communities.

Figure 5: Population 25+ with a Bachelor's Degree or Higher by Race & Ethnicity

Educational attainment rates exhibited significant variability by gender across the Southern Arizona communities. The Catalina Foothills CDP had the highest college attainment rates for both males and females at 70.3% and 65.5%, respectively. Substantial variation exists for many of the Southern Arizona communities between males and females, where communities such as the town of Florence had educational attainment among females that exceeded that of males by 11.2 percentage points, and in other cases, such as in the city of Sierra Vista, educational attainment in males surpassed that of females by 11.8 percentage points. On average, across the 41 communities the college attainment rate for males was 23.0% and for females it was 23.8%.

Figure 6: Population 25+ with a Bachelor's Degree or Higher by Gender  

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 2019 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). Note that the ACS five-year estimates are a rolling survey taken over five years therefore, they are only comparable on a five-year interval.