States with higher proportions of highly skilled workers grow faster than those with fewer skilled workers, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland says. By grow, the Fed means in terms of income, productivity and population. And by skilled workers, they mean college-educated people, which they say is a strong though not perfect measure of these things.
So how’s Ohio doing? The Fed takes a close look and finds:
1. Ohio ranks 39th nationally in the percent of residents over age 25 with a four-year college degree.
In 2010, for example, 24.6 percent of Ohioans aged 25 and older had earned a four-year college degree (compared to the national average of 28.2 percent), placing Ohio at 39 in the rankings.
While some states have moved up in the rankings, Ohio’s rank hasn’t changed much in the past 30 years.
2. Ohio ranks 25th nationally in the percentage of young adults with at least a four-year college degree.
Ohio’s youngest working cohort (ages 25–34) had relatively low college attainment rates in 1980, ranking 39th in the nation. By 2010, Ohio had moved up to the 25th spot, with 29.4 percent of the younger cohort having at least a four-year college degree. Moreover, this younger cohort does even better in terms of advanced degrees.
3. Immigration is making Ohio more educated.
On average, foreign-born residents of Ohio have much higher educational attainment rates than native-born residents. For individuals over 25, the college attainment rate for people born in the United States living in Ohio is 23.8 percent, while for the foreign-born it is 39.5 percent.
Nationally, the reverse is typically true: The foreign-born tend to be less educated than native-born Americans. The bad news (for Ohio) is that Ohio has a relatively low percentage of immigrants.
4. Young, foreign-born Ohioans are even more educated than their native-born peers.
Foreign-born residents make up 6.5 percent of the 25–34 age group and 10.3 percent of those with a college degree in that group. In addition, foreign-born residents are particularly important in fields requiring academic backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
And foreign-born Ohioans make up more than a fifth of Ohio’s young science, technology and engineering workers.
5. Ohio’s “brain drain” is more of an inflow problem than an outflow one.
Ohio’s brain-drain rate (the proportion of college graduates aged 25-34 with a bachelor’s degree who left the state) is slightly lower than the national average. But Ohio’s brain-gain rate (the percentage of that same young, college-educated group born outside Ohio) is lower than the national average.
Over the long run, Ohio’s net outflow of high-human-capital individuals is not driven by an above-average proportion of skilled individuals leaving the state; rather, it reflects the low rate of migration of such individuals into Ohio from other states.
About a third of Ohioans with bachelor’s degrees were born outside of Ohio. In other states, about half of college graduates were born out of state.
6. Ohio’s relatively low college-attainment levels aren’t just because of the state’s manufacturing industry.
About one-third of the difference education-wise between Ohio and the most educated states is due to differences in industry composition. Those differences are mainly that Ohio doesn’t have as many jobs in professional and financial services sectors and in public administration as better-educated states.
But across the board, in nearly every industry, Ohio’s college attainment rates are lower than those of the most educated states, the Fed says.