Arizona Continues to Slip Relative to the Nation on Educational Attainment

| July 13, 2015


TOM REX is associate director of the Center for Competitiveness and Prosperity Research in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Rex specializes in applied economic and demographic research with an emphasis on Arizona and the Metropolitan Phoenix area.

Workforce quality and availability has become the most important location factor determining a region’s economic competitiveness/business climate. The relative significance of the workforce has increased over time as the U.S. economy transitions from the 20th century’s manufacturing-dominated economy to an economy driven more by technology and innovation.
Educational attainment is a key measure of workforce quality. Historically, Arizona compared favorably relative to the nation on the educational attainment of its residents, but it is now below average, with a large shortfall among young adults in the percentage with at least a bachelor’s degree.
Educational attainment is reported annually by the U.S. Census Bureau, based on the American Community Survey (ACS). Educational attainment data generally are presented for the entire population of age 25 and older. Limited information is available for more-narrow age groups. The Census Bureau also provides the educational attainment of those in the workforce, between the ages of 25 and 64.
On the Arizona Indicators website (, the latest data on educational attainment are included in the demographics category. Annual data are limited to the nation and Arizona. Small samples preclude the publication of annual data for less-populous areas and reduce the reliability of the annual data that are published. To reduce sampling error, county data are presented for a five-year period, with the latest data for the 2009-through-2013 period.

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Category: Advocacy

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