Posted by: Josh Lehner | September 18, 2013

Educational Attainment

Last week I highlighted a somewhat new way of examining underemployment in the labor market and the so-called broken job ladder. In the comments it was suggested you can look at the educational attainment by industry if you dig into the PUMS data (public use microdata sample) by the Census Bureau (thanks Christian!). Our state demographer, Kanhaiya Vaidya, did just that using the 2009-11 ACS data and the results are shown below. There is lots of really good information here and I will leave it largely without comment but thanks again to Kanhaiya for pulling it all together. I have tried to keep the industries as the standard ones from the employment data but have made a few modifications (see notes below). The data are sorted from highest to lowest by the share of employees with at least a bachelor’s degree. The data cover the population 25 years and older. Overall there are not too many surprises in the data, however it is interesting to see the specifics.


Industry notes:

1) Government employment is spread across many of these industries and the public administration sector really is just the administration functions of government; for example, K-12 teachers and college professors are included in the educational services line and not public administration.

2) I had Kanhaiya separate computer and electronic product manufacturing from all other and with good reason it turns out given the educational attainment differences; 52 percent compared with 19 percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

3) Due to sample size concerns, I have combined professional and technical services with management of companies instead of showing each individually. Social assistance is typically included with health services, however I leave them separate here.

While examining industry trends provides a lot of insight, it is also important to study occupations. Doing so slices the data in a somewhat different manner and highlights trends and changes in the underlying economy as occupations cut across industries. For example, nearly all firms across the industry spectrum have administrative support workers and managers even though those occupations face different trends over time in both number of jobs and pay. The total shown below in green is for all employed Oregonians, whereas above it was for the total population so the numbers do differ.

OccupationEdAttainAs a bonus, there are other ways in which one can breakdown the ACS data and as shown below the educational attainment levels for employed individuals is substantially higher than those for the unemployed.


As mentioned in the first graph, public sector workers are spread across the industries, however if you look at what Census calls the Class of Worker, then you can see the relative educational attainment differences between the private and public sector. It is also interesting (and encouraging) to note that people who own their own business do have a higher educational attainment level than the population at large. Start-up activity is lagging in recent years and one reason for the slow recovery (more on this at some other point in the future), but with an increasingly educated population, we should and hope for more entrepreneurship.

EdAttain_CoWAs a double bonus, Kanhaiya also pulled the health insurance coverage for class of worker and employment status.



  1. […] in the fact that public employees are older/have more experience as shown above, they also have a higher overall level of educational attainment, and the occupational mix is different, this compensation differential disappears. Now, whether or […]

  2. It would be interesting to add numbers of jobs to the educational attainment graphs to see what percentage of the jobs are filled by each level of education. This would give insight into whether the governor’s 40-40-20 educational goal can be supported by the current Oregon job market and perhaps help students see which industries/jobs offer the most opportunity.

    • Thanks Patti for the comment! This is precisely what we are working on. We have all the numbers and are working on crunching them on both a statewide and regional basis. Expect to see something in October or November on this more formerly.


  3. Hi Josh, Do you have a educational attainment graph for Oregonians for 2013 or at least more recent than 2011? I would really like to have a pie chart with percentages of education levels for a CTE conference presentation on April 8th. The one I have now is for 2011, it has the following percentages:
    Not graduated HS – 13%
    HS Diploma – 31%
    Associate Degree – 26%
    Bachelors Degree – 19%
    Master’s Degree – 10%
    Doctorate – 1%

    Thank you,
    Romella Lee

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