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Educational Attainment

Description: 

The American Community Survey (ACS) has been conducted on an ongoing basis for the entire country since 2005. Annually, calendar-year ACS results are released for areas with a population of at least 65,000. Due to the small sample size, single-year estimates are not available for less-populous areas. Combined estimates for three years of data are available annually for areas with a population of at least 20,000; five years of data are combined for less populous areas. The substantial sampling error present in the ACS is discussed in the data quality comments section below.

The ACS questionnaire asks respondents to report the highest level of schooling completed by each person. Typically, educational attainment is reported for the population at least 25 years old, with 25 used as the age at which most people have completed their education. Since the educational attainment of senior citizens living in Arizona is above the national average, the use of figures for the entire population 25 or old can be misleading for labor force purposes.

Thus, educational attainment data for young adults (those 25-to-34 years old) also are presented on Arizona Indicators. The maximum educational attainment has been aggregated into five groups on Arizona Indicators: less than a high school graduate, high school diploma, some college, bachelor’s degree, and graduate degree. Annual data since 2005 are presented for the United States and Arizona, but data for each of the 15 Arizona counties are limited to a five-year average due to the substantial sampling error.

Data Source: 

U. S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml. Annual ACS estimates are released in September; five-year averages are available in December.

Data Quality Comments: 

The Census Bureau publishes the ACS sampling error with every estimate, expressed as the margin of error with 90 percent confidence. The following is an example:

The estimate of the poverty rate in Maricopa County in 2009 was 15.2 percent, with a margin of error of + or – 0.6 percentage points. The interpretation is that there is a 90 percent likelihood that the actual poverty rate was within the confidence interval of 14.6 percent to 15.8 percent. A one-in-ten chance exists that the real rate was outside this range.

For the nation and other very populous areas, the annual ACS estimates are highly accurate. For moderately populous areas such as Arizona, sampling error is moderately large, so caution is urged in using the annual ACS data for the state. The sampling error for less populous areas, such as most of Arizona’s counties, is quite large, even when using five-year averages. Thus, considerable caution is urged in using the five-year ACS data for counties other than Maricopa and Pima.

The published margin of error should be taken into consideration when deciding whether to use a result from the ACS. Whether the reported sampling error is too large depends on the user’s purpose for accessing the data and on the volatility of the measure over time and across geographic areas.

iconMaximum Educational Attainment of Those 25 or Older, 2013

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Visualization Notes:

Relative to the nation in 2013, a disproportionately large share of Arizonans 25 years of age or older had a maximum educational attainment of some college; Arizona also was above-average on the share without a high school diploma. The proportions in Arizona were below average for high school diplomas, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate degrees.

iconPercentage of Those 25 or Older With at Least a High School Diploma

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Visualization Notes:

The percentage of those 25 years of age or older who had earned a high school diploma rose between 2005 and 2013, nationally and in Arizona. The percentage in Arizona has been a little less than the national average.

iconPercentage of Those 25 or Older With at Least a Bachelor's Degree

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Visualization Notes:

The percentage of those 25 years of age or older who had earned a bachelor’s degree rose between 2005 and 2013, nationally and in Arizona. The percentage in Arizona has been less than the national average, with no narrowing of the differential.

iconPercentage of Those 25 or Older With a Graduate Degree

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Visualization Notes:

The percentage of those 25 years of age or older who had earned a graduate degree rose between 2005 and 2013, nationally and in Arizona. The percentage in Arizona has been less than the national average, with no narrowing of the differential.

iconPercentage of Those 25 or Older With at Least a High School Diploma, 2009-2013 Average

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Visualization Notes:

Between 2009 and 2013, on average 86.0 percent of U.S. residents age 25 or older had earned a high school diploma; the percentage was barely less in Arizona. However, the percentage was more than 10 percentage points below the national average in Apache, La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Yuma counties. The share was highest at just over 90 percent in Yavapai County.

iconPercentage of Those 25 or Older With at Least a Bachelor's Degree, 2009-2013 Average

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Visualization Notes:

Between 2009 and 2013, on average 28.8 percent of U.S. residents age 25 or older had earned a bachelor’s degree; the share was lower in Arizona at 26.9 percent. The only counties with a figure higher than the national average were Coconino, Maricopa and Pima, each the home of a public university. The percentage was far below the national average in most of the other counties, with differentials from the national average of at least 10 percentage points in nine counties.

iconPercentage of Those 25-to-34 Years Old With at Least a High School Diploma

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Visualization Notes:

Since younger adults on average have higher educational attainment than older adults, some of the differential in educational attainment between Arizona and the nation could result from differences in the age distribution. In order to control for this, comparisons are made for those between the ages of 25 and 34. However, sampling error becomes an issue in Arizona in the annual estimates of this subset of the population.

Among those 25-to-34 years of age, the percentage of high school graduates increased nationally and in Arizona between 2005 and 2013. A lower percentage of Arizonans had earned at least a high school diploma in each year.

iconPercentage of Those 25-to-34 Years Old With at Least a Bachelor's Degree

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Visualization Notes:

Among those 25-to-34 years of age, the percentage of residents earning at least a bachelor’s degree increased nationally and in Arizona between 2005 and 2013. The percentage has been much lower in Arizona, with no narrowing of the large differential.

iconPercentage of Those 25-to-34 Years Old With at Least a High School Diploma, 2009-to-2013 Average

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Visualization Notes:

On average between 2009 and 2013, the percentage of those 25-to-34 years old who had earned at least a high school diploma exceeded the national average of 87.9 percent in only three Arizona counties —Coconino, Greenlee, and Pima. The figure was less than 80 percent in La Paz and Mohave counties. The percentage in populous Maricopa County and in the state as a whole was 2.4 points below the national average.

iconPercentage of Those 25-to-34 Years Old With at Least a Bachelor's Degree, 2009-to-2013 Average

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Visualization Notes:

On average between 2009 and 2013, the percentage of those 25-to-34 years old who had earned at least a bachelor’s degree was less than the national average of 31.9 percent in every Arizona county. The highest figures were in the three counties with public universities, with differentials ranging from 3-to-6 percentage points. The differential was more than 12 percentage points in each of the other counties.

Data Source

U. S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml. Annual ACS estimates are released in September; five-year averages are available in December.