Higher levels of college-degree attainment boosts employment for all, even the least educated

Dec 11, 2012 by M. Reilly

(Phys.org)—When it comes to four-year college degree attainment, a rising tide lifts all boats. According to research out this week from the University of Cincinnati, higher levels of college-degree attainment in an area boost the employment rate for all in that area. In fact, the least educated receive the biggest boost in terms of spillover effect.

For each 10 percent rise in the number of residents with a four-year college degree, the average overall employment rate in United States rose by 2 percent between 1980 and the year 2000.

That employment rate rose higher for women (2.2 percent) vs. men (1.9 percent) and benefited some of the least educated the most dramatically.

For instance, every 10 percent rise in an area's four-year college degree attainment boosted the employment rate for women with either a or even less education by 3.2 percent.

The research by John Winters, assistant professor of economics at the University of Cincinnati, "Human Capital Externalities and Employment Differences Across Metropolitan Areas of the USA," is published this week in the Journal of Economic Geography. It's research based on analysis of 1980 and year 2000 census data for those aged 25-55 years old from 283 metropolitan areas of the United States, a geographic area covering more than 80 percent of the U.S. .

According to Winters, it's important to realize that even a 2 or 3 percent rise in employment for a population represents a large increase: "When we see the employment rate rise or fall by 1-, 2- or 3 percent for any group or area, that's making national news because it's a lot."

Statistical Surprise

According to Winters, "It surprised me at first to find that the biggest, positive effects on employment went to the least educated as an area's college-degree attainment rises. However, some explanations can be found in the data itself about this , especially the fact that women with a high school diploma or less benefited more than did men with a high school diploma or less."

One explanation is that those earning of education and, thus, higher salaries were likely boosting local demand for and support of purchased services and amenities, everything from lawn care and child care to the arts and eateries. Said Winters, "Less-educated women benefited more from this spillover effect because they are more highly represented in certain sectors of the support and amenities portions of the labor force."

A second explanation is that people gain skills from working near highly educated workers, and this skill spillover increases the benefits of working.

Geographic areas where higher education attainment most affected employment

According to UC's Winters, mid-sized college towns and cities benefited the most in terms of overall employment effects based on four-year college degree attainment due to the fact that they generally contain an overall smaller population but one where higher proportions of residents have attended college and earned degrees. In these cases, the presence of a university is often the driver of educational attainment and thus, higher employment rates for all. He listed locales like Boulder, Colo.; Corvallis, Ore.; Ithaca, N.Y., Ann Arbor, Mich.; Lawrence, Kan., Iowa City, Iowa; and Ames, Iowa, as college towns with higher education levels that have much better employment outcomes than they otherwise would have.   

But larger cities can also enjoy positive employment probability outcomes based on four-year degree attainment when higher proportions of the population have attained college degrees. In the upper tier of Winters' research findings were cities like Washington, D.C.; San Jose/San Francisco, Calif.; and Boston, Mass. These cities benefited in terms of overall rates of employment due to the higher percentages of residents with college degrees.

Future research focus

UC's Winters will next expand this current research effort to focus on data from the 2010 census, which would include overall effects from the Great Recession. He theorizes that metropolitan areas where higher proportions of the population aged 25-55 have attained higher levels of education may have weathered the effects of the recession better and may have experienced recovery more quickly than an area with lower proportions of attainment.

Explore further: Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

More information: joeg.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/recent

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Youth with ASD have poor postsecondary outcomes

May 14, 2012

(HealthDay) -- Youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are at high risk for not participating in postsecondary education or employment, particularly in the first two years after high school, according ...

A college degree is critical to economic opportunity

Aug 09, 2011

As millions of students prepare to return to college, a new study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce confirms that the value of college degrees is increasing. Experts from Georgetown and Lumina ...

First-time divorce rate tied to education, race

Nov 03, 2011

New research from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) at Bowling Green State University shows there is substantial variation in the first-time divorce rate when it is broken down by race and education. ...

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

2 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

5 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

17 hours ago

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Jeddy_Mctedder
1 / 5 (3) Dec 11, 2012
University of xxxxxcbfhjbj produced this research eh? No conflict of interest there.

1 trillion of student debt and a 30 % default or deferrment rate prove the conclusion of this research is wrong
VendicarD
not rated yet Dec 11, 2012
So many college kids and still no Americans qualified in the eyes of Apple computers to be employed assembling Apple Computers.

Why isn't government training these kids? Apple is waiting and doesn't have all day...

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Tiny power plants hold promise for nuclear energy

Small underground nuclear power plants that could be cheaper to build than their behemoth counterparts may herald the future for an energy industry under intense scrutiny since the Fukushima disaster, the ...

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...