What does this measure?
The number of residents with a particular level of education in a region, expressed as a percentage of all residents 25 and older, broken down by race and ethnicity.
Why is this important?
An educated population makes a more attractive workforce and is better prepared to instruct the next generation of residents. High educational attainment represents a region's investment in human capital and preparation for long-term growth. There are persistent gaps in academic achievement among students of different races, ethnicities and incomes, and this is likely reflected in levels of educational attainment.
How is our county doing?
The share of Essex County adults in 2017-21 with a bachelor's degree or higher was highest among Asian residents (59%), followed by white residents (45%), African American residents (25%) and Hispanic residents (15%). Essex County had similar rates to the state, although its rate for Hispanic residents with a bachelor's degree was 7 points lower. Essex also had a lower shares of Hispanic residents with least a bachelor's degree compared to the national level at 18%.
All groups in Essex County increased their rates of residents with a bachelor's degree or higher since 2000. Asian residents had the largest increase of 18 percentage points, while white resident increased by 12 points, African American residents increased by 9 points, and Hispanic residents by 6 points.
How do we compare to similar counties?
The comparison counties had similar racial and ethnic disparities in education levels, but varied in their extent. Essex County had lower rates of Asian and white adults with at least a bachelor's degree than all the comparison counties. The percentages of African American and Hispanic residents with bachelor's degrees in Essex was similar to Lake, IL and lower than Westchester, NY (35% and 25%, respectively) and Middlesex, MA (39% and 33%).
Why do these disparities exist?
There are a variety of factors believed to contribute to disparities in educational attainment. School systems in the United States are highly segregated, and students of color disproportionately attend schools with high proportions of low-income students who may not have benefited from early learning opportunities at the same rate as other students. Schools also have different levels of resources ranging from qualified/experienced teachers to advanced courses to facilities and technology, and schools with large Black and Latino populations often have lower levels. In addition, teachers across all school systems tend to be disproportionately white, and teaching practices and curriculum may not be culturally relevant to students of color. Low staff expectations at racially and economically segregated schools also contribute disparities in educational attainment. The accumulation of inequities leads to lower graduation rates and college matriculation, with college affordability acting as another barrier. When Black and Latino students enter higher education institutions, they are less likely to attain a college a degree given weaker academic preparation and financial hardship.
Notes about the data
Adults are people 25 and older. The multi-year figures are from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The bureau combined five years of responses to the survey to provide estimates for smaller geographic areas and increase the precision of its estimates. However, because the information came from a survey, the samples responding to the survey were not always large enough to produce reliable results, especially in small geographic areas. CGR has noted on data tables the estimates with relatively large margins of error. Estimates with three asterisks have the largest margins, plus or minus 50% or more of the estimate. Two asterisks mean plus or minus 35%-50%, and one asterisk means plus or minus 20%-35%. For all estimates, the confidence level is 90%, meaning there is 90% probability the true value (if the whole population were surveyed) would be within the margin of error (or confidence interval).
The survey provides data on characteristics of the population that used to be collected only during the decennial census. Data for this indicator are released annually in December.