Indicator 17: Educational Attainment
How Does Massachusetts Perform?
Massachusetts continues to be the ‘best in class’ when it comes to the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher (47.3%) when compared to the LTS average (37.0%) or that of the U.S. (34.2%) during the 2014-2016 timeframe. Massachusetts remains competitive among the LTS in workforce educational attainment with 67.5% of its working age population having achieved at least some college (3rd in the LTS) and is virtually tied with 2nd and 4th ranked New Hampshire and Connecticut. Minnesota leads in overall college attainment, due largely to its strong performance with students having less than a four-year degree. One possible explanation for this is the continued strength of Advanced Manufacturing in the Midwest, as many of these jobs require post-secondary credentials, but not a full bachelor’s degree. Midwest peer Wisconsin posts similarly strong percentages with such students.
The employment rate among adults with at least a bachelor’s degree in Massachusetts (75.5%) has remained comparatively high, but it has remained relatively stagnant since the Great Recession of 2009 (76.7%). Over the same period, the gap between the employment rates of holders of Bachelor’s degree and above holders compared to those with only a high school diploma has fallen from 20 percentage points to 13.5, mainly due to increases in the employment rate of high school graduates. The significant improvement in the state’s unemployment rate since 2009 can be attributed to the more than 5% increase in employment among high school graduates during the 2009-2015 time period.
Since the onset of the Great Recession, Massachusetts has maintained a lower unemployment rate than the U.S. as a whole. Meanwhile college attainment has remained relatively stable in Massachusetts since 2008 with 65.0-67.5% of the state’s working age population having at least some college education. The employment situation for high school graduates seems to be improving and could signal future economic growth. Growth in the employment rate of college-educated adults may reach a plateau as baby boomers age out of the workforce and there is more room for growth in the employment rate among high school graduates.
Massachusetts is second to Rhode Island among the LTS in Postsecondary Degrees conferred per 1,000 residents in 2015. In each of the top five LTS, aside from Minnesota, the majority of post-secondary graduates go to private non-profit schools.