Points of View

Educational Attainment Keeps Rising for All Age Groups

Ryan Gimarc

Talent 2025’s foundational goal is that 64 percent of the adult population in West Michigan would have some form of postsecondary education by 2025, which includes certificates, Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees, and beyond. In 2015, West Michigan stands at 58.3 percent for this figure, some 5.7 percentage points shy of the goal.

Although we’re tracking this number in the aggregate, American Community Survey data allows us to take a closer look at educational attainment within specific age brackets. This allows us to make sure that we’re making positive gains across the board for this educational metric.

 

Education by Age Group

In 2015, while the overall percentage of the adult population (25+) with some education beyond high school was 58.3 percent, this varied quite a bit depending on age. On the younger side, 64.6 percent of individuals ages 25 to 34 were at this level of education (already above the goal of 64 percent), with a close 63.8 percent of individuals aged 35 to 44 at that level as well. Two age groups above this, those 45 to 64 and those 65 years or older, both have lower levels of educational attainment at 58.7 and 46.8 percent, respectively.

This trend is fairly universal across the country, as a higher proportion of jobs available several decades ago required less than a postsecondary education. Therefore, fewer individuals pursued these paths after high school graduation. This trend of more jobs requiring higher education over time is expected to continue, and factored into the determination of Goal 2025. 

 

Change Over Time

Fortunately, we see that educational attainment is rising across all of these age groups over the past five years, most prominently among those ages 65 and above. In this age group, 38.4 percent of individuals had education beyond high school in 2010, but rose by 8.3 percentage points in 2015 to 46.8 percent.

Much of this increase, and indeed much of the increase in each of the age groups, comes from a rising percent of the population obtaining a Bachelor’s degree. In 2010, Bachelor’s degree attainment rates stood at 26.6 percent for 25 to 34 year olds, 27.1 percent for 35 to 44 year olds, 23.7 percent for 45 to 64 year olds, and 16.1 percent for those 65 or older. These rates had all risen by 1.3 to 4.8 percentage points over a five year period.