By Courtney Brown
The latest edition of A Stronger Nation, Lumina Foundation’s signature report on educational attainment, now offers an interactive tool that states and stakeholders can use to help tailor their efforts to boost education attainment.
If you haven’t checked out the Stronger Nation website (more details here), I hope you’ll give it a look. It’s an easy-to-use data visualization site that illustrates attainment geographically — from the nation down to the county level, as well as by race and ethnicity. It allows you to make comparisons among states and communities — and to slice the data in countless ways to produce valuable insights.
Lumina offers this report because research shows that, by 2025, roughly two-thirds of jobs will require some form of post-high school learning. But right now, only about 48 percent of Americans meet that standard. This means we simply don’t have enough talent to fill the jobs that are open. This has huge consequences for all of us — and for the nation’s success in the global marketplace of ideas and trade.
That’s why in 2008, Lumina set a goal for the nation that by 2025, 60 percent of Americans will hold a certificate, a degree or another high-quality credential beyond high school. Forty-two states also have recognized this and set their own goals that represent what they need for their current and future labor markets.
We’re still well short of the national goal, and we also come up short in terms of fairness: Only 31 percent of African-Americans, 25 percent of American Indians and 24 percent of Latinos hold at least an associate degree. For white Americans, the figure is 47 percent.
The first step to fixing any problem, especially one as complex as this, is obtaining the best information on the current status. This is where A Stronger Nation comes in. Most of the data in the report comes from the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey (ACS). We pull relevant ACS information together and present it in an easily accessible way, displaying the full picture of education beyond high school for the nation, for all 50 states plus Puerto Rico, for the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, and for every county in each state.
Again, those rich data arrays represent just the first step; they present a detailed picture of education attainment among a variety of subpopulations. The second step is to identify and better understand the populations that must be served if we are to reach or attainment goals. This year, we’ve added a dynamic tool — the “goal-exploration tool” — to help Stronger Nation users take that second step. You find a link to this tool at the top of the Stronger Nation page.
If we’re interested in Virginia, for example, we can click on that state and see its current 70 percent goal for 2030. The data display shows clearly the number of Virginians who will need to attain a credential each year to reach that goal. But we can also change the goal — by percentage, by target year, or by age range — and see a revised data array.
Because the tool allows us to look at different age ranges and racial/ethnic groups, it demonstrates the important role that various subpopulations must play in reaching attainment goals. Currently, the national goal for educational attainment considers 25- to 64-year-olds; but if users want to focus on 25- to 34-year-olds, they have that option. They can also look at attainment targets for African-Americans, for Latinos, and for American Indians — and even filter that information by age.
We’re confident that the information provided in A Stronger Nation can be an important asset to those working to increase education attainment. It can help communities and stakeholders at all levels view their current status, understand the populations where they must focus their efforts, and devise ways to increase access to and success in education beyond high school. And that success is vital as we work to build a stronger, more globally competitive nation.