Rural Achievement Mostly Better Than 40 Years Ago

By Diette Courrégé Casey — April 10, 2012 1 min read
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Rural Americans have improved their educational attainment during the past 40 years, but the gap between rural and urban areas for residents with college degrees is growing, according to new analysis by rural advocates.

Additionally, rural areas are seeing an increasing percentage of residents who only have a high school diploma, while the rest of the country is seeing a decrease in that percentage.

The Daily Yonder and the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University worked together on a project that looked at how rural America achievement has changed in the past four decades. They found rural areas have made progress according to many measures, such as the percentage of residents who obtained some sort of post-secondary education (up from 7.8 percent in 1970 to 27.4 percent in 2010, according to the article) and the percentage of adults with less than a high school education (down from 59.4 percent in 1970 to 18.9 percent in 2010).

But they point out a couple of areas where statistics aren’t in rural communities’ favor, specifically the widening gap between rural and urban areas for the percentage of adults with college degrees. Rural areas have improved that percentage to 15.4, but they’re further behind the national average (27.9 percent) and urban areas (30 percent) than they’ve been in the past 40 years.

Rural areas also have a growing percentage of residents who only have a high school diploma (38.3 percent), while that figure generally is declining for the country (29 percent). That gap is wider now than it’s been in 40 years, according to their figures.

Those numbers make sense when compared with our previous reports on how rural areas trail the national average for their college enrollment rates. Only 27 percent of their students enrolling in college compared with 34 percent nationally.

The joint project didn’t delve into the “whys” behind the statistics, but its authors promised to do so in the future.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.