Latest economic data paints same picture: Missouri in bottom half of states
The Bureau of the Census recently released its 2014 American Community Survey (www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/). Based on two key measures—income and education—Missouri ranked in lower half of all states.
The Survey provides a current, comprehensive look at various characteristics of American society, from economic to social to demographic. The data are available at the national and state level. Though there are hundreds of possible data sets to look at, I chose two that are key indicators of Missouri’s current and future economic health: household income and educational attainment.
Missouri ranked 36th in median household income when compared with all other states. (The median means there are just as many households above this number as below.) The national median household income at $53,657, and the number for Missouri is $48,363. At least we’re better off than Mississippi, where the median household income was only $39,680. In terms of education, the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree or more shows how well Missouri is doing at producing (and keeping) or attracting from other places those individuals ready for the modern workplace. Here again Missouri’s record is mediocre at best: 27.5 percent of Missouri adults have a BA or better, below the national average of 30.1 percent. Missouri ranks 32nd on this measure of education.
Are the two related? The weight of evidence says yes: better educated people tend to earn higher incomes. The 2014 Survey data show that of the top 25 states in terms of median household income, on average 32 percent of the adults had least a BA. For the bottom 25 states (in terms of income) on average just a little more than one-quarter of the adults had at least a BA. Moreover, if you statistically compare the median household income and BA attainment data, the correlation (how closely they are related statistically) between these two series is 0.83. With a correlation of 1.0 representing one-to-one correspondence between the two, this suggests that median household income and education are related.
Is this correlation reflecting the fact that more education is associated with higher income, or is it that higher income areas attract those with more education? Either way, Missouri is coming up short. We are not generating and keeping those with college degrees nor are we attracting them from other places. Continued failure to do so will ensure a lackluster economic future.