More education attainment data

The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its preliminary estimates of per capita income for 2010. There will be all sorts of revisions before the final stats are in. But they are the first data in a decade that use actual state population (the denominator), rather than estimates. Because Michigan’s population in previous calculations was over estimated in this data we do slightly better.

What struck me most is, as we come out of the Great Recession, how strong is the continuing alignment between college attainment and a state’s income. Of the 15 states with the highest proportion of adults with a four year degree, 13 are in the top 15 in per capita income. Wyoming and Alaska are the only low education attainment states in the top 15 in per capita income. They are there because of high energy prices.

The high college attainment and high per capita income states are in order: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Virginia, New Hampshire, Washington State, Illinois, California, Minnesota, Colorado and Rhode Island. Not exactly a list of low tax, small government and/or Southern states we are constantly told we need to be like.

Michigan is 36th in college attainment and 36th in per capita income. Indiana, the Great Lakes state that is the model for many here, is 41st in per capita income and  43rd in college attainment. Why would they be a model for anyone? Who wants to be poor with low education attainment? Where we should be looking for lessons in the Great Lakes is Illinois which is 11th in income and 12th in college attainment and Minnesota which is 13th in income and 10th in college attainment. And the Minnesota and Illinois economy held up much better this tough decade. Illinois fell two spots from 2000, Minnesota 3, Indiana 9 and Michigan 18.

In my last post we saw how education attainment is the most reliable path for individuals to economic success. The same is true for states who are not energy rich. The lesson we need to learn is:  either as a state we get younger and better educated or we will get poorer.

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