New Data: Learning and Earnings in Douglas and Lane

by Henry Fields

January 10, 2023

Educational attainment is a baseline metric of the qualifications of the labor market, and in general, it’s a positive one here in Oregon. Oregon has a slightly higher percentage of college graduates than the nation, and a lower percentage of those who haven’t graduated high school.

In general, more education correlates with better economic outcomes. However, there are still many high-wage and high-demand careers that don’t require college education. For an efficient labor market, matching opportunities between local jobs and jobseekers’ skills and training is more important than maximizing the percentage of graduates of a particular degree.
Graph showing educational attainment, 2021, population 25+

What educational attainment looks like in individual counties can vary widely. Douglas County has fewer college graduates than the state or nation, with a higher percentage of high school graduates and completers of some college without a degree. Lane County, too, has a lower percentage of bachelor’s degree recipients, which can be surprising for those who associate Lane County’s economic center of gravity with the University of Oregon.

This data, which is from 2021, incorporates individuals 25 years and older, an age at which most people have completed their maximum amount of schooling. The data also includes some information about economic outcomes, such as unemployment and earnings.
Graph showing median earnings, population 25+, 2021 inflation-adjusted dollars

The earnings data is particularly interesting in Lane and Douglas. Both counties have lower earnings (only counting the 25 and older population who had earnings during that time) than Oregon and the U.S.

Breaking the data down further by educational attainment, there’s not much difference in any of these areas for those with a high school education or less. Oregon and its counties are probably buoyed in this category by a higher minimum wage than the federal one.

For those with some college or any type of degree, the gaps with the state and nation become more obvious. The median earnings in Lane County for those with a bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree are less than 80% of the state earnings. Douglas County has a smaller gap, at 87%.

In either instance, that gap is probably influenced by many factors, although the local mix of jobs requiring certain degrees and (in Lane County’s case) the steady supply of early career graduates from the University of Oregon certainly play a role. Looking at an aggregate level does help provide some insight into the wage incentives for people at different levels of education to live and work where they do.

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