Working Age College Graduates

How are we doing?

Four-Year College Attainment Rate for the Working Age Population (2019)



Tucson’s working-age college attainment rate was 31.1% in 2019, which ranked Tucson ninth out of 11 peer Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the West. The working-age college attainment rate in the Tucson MSA was far below the rate posted by Austin, at 45.5%, but well above the rate posted by Las Vegas, at 24.1%. Further, Tucson’s college attainment rate was above the Arizona rate of 29.5%, yet below the national average of 33.5%. The working-age college attainment rate has increased since 2000 in Tucson, but growth has been slower than Arizona and the nation.

Why is it important?

Educated workers are a key ingredient for strong economic growth. They earn higher wages, make firms more productive and innovative, and contribute to stronger wage growth for less-skilled workers. Overall, local areas with a higher concentration of highly educated workers tend to generate faster long-run income, population, and job growth than regions with lower concentrations.

How do we compare?

The working-age college attainment rate for men in the Tucson MSA was 28.9% in 2019, compared to 33.3% for women. College attainment for working-age men in Tucson was below the national rate, with a slightly smaller gap for women. The rates for both men and women in Tucson exceeded the comparable Arizona rates.



What are the key trends?

The college attainment rate for working-age residents in the Tucson MSA rose from 27.6% in 2000 to 31.1% by 2019. That translated into a growth rate of 12.7% over the 19-year period. However, the college attainment rate in Tucson has increased only slightly since 2009 by 6.1%. That placed Tucson’s growth well below Arizona (11.3%) and the nation (13.6%) over the past 10 years.

How is it measured?

The working age college attainment rate reflects the share of the population age 25-64 with a Bachelor’s degree or better. The population age 25-64 includes employed residents, as well as residents that are unemployed and those that have left the labor force. These data come from the U.S. Census Bureau and are the American Community Survey five-year estimates for 2009 and 2018. The ACS is a nationwide rolling sample survey that produces one-year and five-year estimates on demographic, social, housing, and economic measures. Note that the ACS five-year estimates are produced over a five year time period and can only be compared to non-overlapping five-year estimates (for example 2005-2009 and 2010-2014). Data for 2000 are drawn from the Census 2000 SF3 sample.