Educational Attainment in Texas

In our previous post, Exploring the “Some college, no bachelors” degree population, we reviewed national trends related to educational attainment levels of adults (25 and older). This post narrows the focus to the landscape within the borders of Texas, looking first at statewide trends across educational attainment levels from 2009 to 2018 before reviewing county-level data.

Statewide​ Educational Trends

Using data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), educational attainment data for adults (25 and older) were queried from the 5-year ACS estimates for 2009, 2013, and 2018. Although the ACS data include more than 20 levels ranging from “No schooling” through “Graduate or Professional Degrees,” the following analyses collapse educational attainment into four categories: “Less than HS Diploma”, “HS Diploma or GED”, “Some College, No Bachelors”, and “Bachelors or Higher.” The two visuals below show patterns in the data across the four educational attainment levels, as several interesting patterns appear to demonstrate growth in the health of educational attainment in Texas.

The top series of bar charts show the counts of adults (25 and older) at each education level spanning the decade in the data. Hovering over each bar with your cursor, or clicking on the bar when using a touch-based interface, shows additional data of importance, including the estimated total adult population in each year: 14.72 million in 2009, 16.08 million in 2013, and 17.82 million in 2018. In general, the Texas adult population is becoming more educated over time, with fewer adults falling in the “Less than HS Diploma” category, while the growth in “Some College, No Bachelors” and “Bachelors or Higher” categories exceeds the growth seen in the “HS Diploma or GED” category. The “Bachelors or Higher” group of adults saw the largest percentage increase of 40 percent, growing from 3.73 million in 2009 to 5.22 million in 2018, with “Some College, No Bachelors” group growing at 26 percent from 4.08 million to 5.15 million.

The second set of bar charts shows the same years and categories as percentages of the annual total of adults (25 and older). By way of orientation, the percentages added together for each year across attainment categories will result in a total of 100 percent, as opposed to adding the percentages within each attainment category together. Even though the “HS Diploma or GED group” increased by just over 15 percent (3.86 million in 2009 to 4.45 million in 2018), the bottom bar charts show that this group, along with the “Less than HS Diploma” group, dropped in terms of representation during the decade. While the “Some College, No Bachelors” level had the highest percentage in 2008 of 27.7 percent, the “Bachelors or Higher” group exceeded the other categories in 2018 with 29.3 percent of adults (25 and older) being in this highest educational attainment category. 


County-level Educational Trends

In order to better understand how these trends in educational attainment play out across a state as vast as Texas, we looked at which educational attainment category ranked highest in each of the 254 Texas counties during 2009, 2013, and 2018. Several points of interactivity are included in the map below, including selecting specific counties using the drop-down menu under “County” on the left, or by hovering over/clicking on a county directly on the map. The changes over time can also be played using the “Year” filter on the left, as the visual can be animated by clicking on the arrows on either side of the date selector. The color legend also shows which attainment category corresponds to the highest ranking category in each county. Just below the map is a set of bar charts that shows the counts for each category over time. Either hovering over or clicking on a specific bar will filter the map to show which counties in a particular year had the selected attainment category as its highest ranking. 

The county-level trends reinforce the overall data discussed above. In 2009, only 54 counties (21.3 percent) had either “Some College, No Bachelors” or “Bachelors or Higher” as their highest category for educational attainment. In 2018, that count had increased to 93 counties (36.6 percent), which is a 72-percent increase in a decade. Most of that increase occurred in the “Some College, No Bachelors” degree grouping, which moved from 39 to 75 counties, representing a 92-percent increase in that category. Both of the below higher education categories declined from 2009 to 2018, as “Less than HS Diploma” dropped from 40 to 24 counties (-40 percent), while “HS Diploma or GED” fell from 160 counties in 2009 to 137 counties in 2018 (-16.8 percent). Across the three time-points, 152 counties (60 percent) had the same highest educational attainment category each time, while 102 counties (40 percent) changed at least once throughout the decade of data.


So what?

Part of the ongoing thread running through the fabric of the first few blog posts has been identifying trends in student enrollment and educational attainment levels, both nationally and in Texas. As we have seen, the number of high school graduates produced by Texas high schools is increasing, as is the overall number of direct enrollment of those graduates into Texas public universities. However, the percentage of direct enrollment of those high school graduates into Texas public universities has been on the decline for the past decade. This pattern has an effect on enrollment trends at public universities, who are constantly looking for pockets of opportunity to increase enrollments in their campuses. The population of almost 5 million adults (25 or older) in Texas who are categorized as having “Some College, No Bachelors” degree serves as a prime opportunity for institutions of higher education looking to not only grow their enrollment, but also to facilitate greater educational attainment for individuals in the regions those universities serve.

Next in the series

The next blog post will further drill-down into the “Some College, No Bachelors” degree group to explore the integration of geography and educational attainment across Texas.

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