According to a study conducted by Wayne State University, residents of the oldest industrial cities in the nation tend to have lower education levels compared to urban dwellers in other parts of the country. The study, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau in 1980, found that the highest percentages of high school and college graduates are found in the newer Western cities.
When examining the education levels in the population of the 35 largest cities and 34 largest metropolitan areas in the country, the researchers discovered that Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, and St. Louis have the lowest percentage of high school graduates. Only about half of their residents aged 23 or older had completed high school by 1980. These cities also have the smallest proportion of college graduates, with less than 10 percent of their residents having completed four years of college.
On the other hand, Minneapolis, Portland, San Diego, San Jose, and Seattle have the highest percentage of residents with high school diplomas, with 75 percent of their population possessing this qualification. In terms of college graduates, Denver, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. have a higher concentration, with at least 25 percent of the population holding a degree in 1980.
Nationally, on average, 66.3 percent of U.S. residents aged 23 or older have obtained a high school diploma, while 16.3 percent have graduated from college.
The study’s findings reflect the job opportunities available in different areas of the country. William Simmons, the assistant director of Wayne State’s Michigan Metropolitan Information Center and director of the study, explained that certain areas, like auto factory towns, do not require a degree for employment. However, cities like San Jose, which focus on new technology occupations, require higher levels of education.
Wayne State’s president, David Adamany, who presented the study’s findings, expressed concern over the educational gap in cities like Detroit that are facing economic challenges. He highlighted that the abundance of high-paying factory jobs in Detroit historically discouraged residents from pursuing college or even high school diplomas. However, with the decline of such job opportunities, residents will be ill-prepared for positions that demand skills in mathematics, science, and analytical reading.
Simmons also suggested that lower education levels in older cities can be attributed to their older and poorer populations. Both demographics tend to have lower education levels compared to the national average.
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