Monday, April 09, 2012
College education unevenly distributed in rural U.S.; some places have self-reinforcing cycle against it
Though the percentage of adults in rural communities with college degrees has almost tripled since 1970, the rate of rural people attending college, 15.4 percent, is still far below the national average of 27.9 percent, Roberto Gallardo of the Southern Rural Development Center and Bill Bishop of the Daily Yonder reported recently. In a follow-up report for the Yonder, they say the distribution of rural college graduates across rural America isn't even, either; the South and West are lagging behind.
The Yonder map shows the percentage of adults with a college degree in all rural counties. Blue areas are above the national average of 28 percent with college degrees; light blue is at or above the rural average of 15.4 percent; tan is between 10 and 15.3 percent and orange is below 10 percent.
University of Missouri economist Judith Stallmann told the Yonder that the trend refelcts the types of jobs available in rural areas: those that don't require college degrees. "One of the problems that rural areas face is that in order to get a college education, young people have to leave," Stallmann said. "Once you leave, that introduces you to other opportunities that you might not have seen had you not left."
This can create a "self-reinforcing cycle" in rural communities. When young people leave and don't come back, the need for jobs requiring college degrees decreases, along with the chance to create such jobs. Both economists agreed that rural communities need to make themselves attractive to educated people if they are to survive. The five rural counties with the highest share of college graduates are in New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. The five counties with the lowest share are in Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and Idaho. (Read more)