Growing Smarter: Capital District Data for November/December

The November/December issue of Capital District Data is now available from the Capital District Regional Planning Commission.  This is the first issue since the Census Bureau released the 5-year estimates for the 2011-15 American Community Survey. The November/December issue customarily highlights key indicators for the new ACS including median household income and educational attainment. This issue dives a bit deeper into the data and examines trends in the relationship between educational attainment and median incomes from the 2005-2009 and 2011-2015 ACS.



Educational Attainment

Every year that educational attainment is examined shows that the Capital District (and its four corresponding counties) performs very well in terms of high percentages of college graduates, and low percentages of high school dropouts, when compared to the State and Nation. The 2011-2015 ACS confirms this trend with 35.3% of the Region’s population 25 years of age or older possessing at least a Bachelor’s Degree. This is in-line with the State’s rate of 34.2%, and above the National rate of 29.7%. Conversely, only 7.7% of the Capital Region’s population 25 or older failed to possess a high school diploma, compared to 14.4% for the State, and 13.3% for the Nation. These figures were all improvements from those of the 2005-09 ACS which showed lower levels of educational attainment.

Median Income

Median Income (for both individuals and households) has been on a steady decline for more than 30 years. Nationally, after adjusting for inflation, the median household income in 1985 was $67,941, while the 2011-2015 ACS records median household income as $53,889. In the last decade, declines in median incomes have shown no signs of reversal. Between the 2005-09 & 2011-15 ACS’, the adjusted median household income for the Region declined from $63,165, to $62,976. This trend was also true for individuals in the Capital Region. For those 25 years of age and older, their individual median income declined from $43,157 to $42,613; but was still higher than the State or Nation’s median income for individuals.

Education-Income Trends

These trends in educational attainment and median income seem to be counter-intuitive to the conventional wisdom that higher levels of educational attainment lead to higher incomes. To test this philosophy, CDRPC examined the median income of individuals by their level of educational attainment. The results found that while higher levels of educational attainment did correlate with higher median incomes, those with higher levels of educational attainment were not immune from the broader trend of declining incomes. Regionally, those with a Bachelor’s Degree saw their median income decline from $55,310 in 2005-2009 to $53,670 in 2011-2015. In that same period, those with a Graduate or professional degree saw incomes decline from $67,200 to $65,550. This trend was true for both the State and Nation as well, indicating that the Capital Region is not alone in those with college degrees seeing declining incomes.

Readers will find all of this, and more, in the newest issue of Capital District Data, available now.