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Kansas City in the Middle of the Pack in Educational Attainment

June 8, 2012

As the national economy continues to evolve into a more knowledge-based service economy, educational attainment is more important than ever in determining the economic success of a region. In this particular subject, the Kansas City metro might have earned a “C”. According to the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, 32.5 percent of all adults (age 25 and over) in the region have college degrees. Nationwide this figure is 28.2 percent. The average for the largest US metros is 32 percent, so Kansas City ranks just above average.

Washington, D.C., San Jose, Bridgeport, San Francisco, Madison, Boston and Raleigh top the list. In these metros more than 40 percent of adults have a college degree.  Kansas City lags behind some peer metros (Denver, Omaha and Minneapolis) but above others (St. Louis, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City).

The New York Times has a nice graphic illustrating the data, as well as an article.

Educational attainment data is important because it speaks to a region’s ability to supply its local economy with the brain power it needs to compete. Kansas City is not lagging in this measure, but it isn’t exactly a front-runner either. The concern is that average isn’t going to be enough going forward. The competition for talent among metros will only get more intense as the economy becomes more and more knowledge based. A successful regional economy needs  a strong, healthy mix of industries and, even more importantly, a highly educated workforce.

Our ability to develop and maintain an educated workforce will likely be one of THE economic development stories for the foreseeable future. We’ll continue to monitor the issue in future posts here at kceconomy.

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