Prosperity and college attainment

Data are now available for 2014 for per capita income and education attainment by state. Michigan ranks 35th in per capita income and 34th in the proportion of adults with a four year degree or more.

Michigan is now structurally a low prosperity state. Every year from 2006 through 2014 the state has ranked between 34th and 38th. This is the first time ever that Michigan has been a lower tier per capita income state with a booming domestic auto industry.

Michigan’s per capita income is $40,740; $5,300 less than the national average. In 2009, in the depths of the Great Recession and a near bankrupt domestic auto industry, Michigan’s per capita income was $5,200 less than the national average.

The alignment of per capita income and the proportion of adults with a four year degree holds true, by and large, across the country. That is because the asset that matters most to knowledge-based employers––who are the main high wage employers––is college educated talent. The one exception to that pattern are states like North Dakota, Alaska and Wyoming––all in the top ten in per capita income–-who are prosperous because of high energy prices.

The top ten non commodity based states in per capita income in 2014 are: Connecticut | Massachusetts | New Jersey | New York | Maryland | New Hampshire | Virginia | California | Washington | Minnesota. Eight are also top ten states in the proportion of adults with four year degrees. The other two California ranks 13th in college attainment and Washington ranks 11th.

The two top ten states in college attainment that are not in the top ten in per capita income are Colorado which is 14th in per capita income and Vermont which ranks 19th.

The same pattern holds true for the bottom ten states in per capita income. They are: Arizona | Arkansas | Utah | Alabama | Kentucky | New Mexico | Idaho | South Carolina | West Virginia | Mississippi. Eight rank 38th or lower in the proportion of adults with a four year degree of more. The two exceptions are Arizona which ranks 31st and Utah which ranks 15th.


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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Utah seems to be the biggest exception, being in the bottom 10 in per capita income but number 15 in college attainment. Mormons traditionally have large families which could pull down per capita income. But I do think they emphasize edulation which may increase the college attainment rate.

  2. In Michigan we have at least two or three large very good research universities. We also have good system of regional state universities and highly ranked private universities and colleges. I think the bottleneck in our system is our grade schools and high schools which are not producing enough grsdustes who sre redy for college work. Too many of our high school graduates enter college and have to spend much of their first yrar having to take remedial high school level courses, because they are not ready for college work.

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