Lancaster’s Improving Educational Attainment Profile

More Lancaster County adults have college degrees than ever, matching a trend taking place throughout Pennsylvania and the United States.

Current data (the period 2012 – 2016) shows that Lancaster has a greater share of Associate’s Degree holders (+1.3%), Bachelor’s Degree holders (+1.1%), and Master’s Degree holders (+1.4%) than in 2009, as Figure 1 shows. Shares of adults who have not completed high school, or who have only a high school diploma or GED have declined over this same period by -2.7% and -1.7% respectively.

Figure 1:

Lancaster degree holders

Unfortunately, Lancaster’s educational attainment profile is not advancing as quickly as it is for the state overall.  State educational growth shows particularly fast improvement in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia metro areas.

While Lancaster’s education gains have been less rapid than those parts of the state, its education profile has been improving faster than some neighboring counties. The share of Bachelor’s degree holders in Lancaster is higher overall than in Berks, Lebanon, and York Counties, and it has also been increasing faster in Lancaster than in these neighboring areas.1

Still, the most important fact shown by these data is that educational attainment is improving throughout Pennsylvania. Though urban and suburban areas are leading the trend, 66 of 67 Pennsylvania counties show an increase in the share of adults with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher over the prior decade. Furthermore, the share of Bachelor’s Degree holders is growing faster in Pennsylvania (+3.4%) than in the United States (+2.8%).

Economic development professionals often talk about the number of citizens with post-secondary credentials as one indicator of a community’s ability to attract and support high-wage jobs.  These trends augur positively for the state’s, and Lancaster County’s, potential for economic growth.

If you are interested in exploring education trends in Lancaster and Pennsylvania in more detail, please visit the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce Prosperity Indicators web portal. Data for all Pennsylvania counties are available to view or download.

 

Evan Gentry

Research Specialist, Floyd Institute for Public Policy

Franklin & Marshall College

 

Berwood Yost

Director, Floyd Institute for Public Policy and Center for Opinion Research

Franklin & Marshall College

 

Table: Share of Population Ages 25+ with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher

PA MSA education table

Data source: U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates

 

1 Prior research has found that the educational attainment statistics in Lancaster are affected by the presence of the Amish, who typically do not attend high school, and therefore increase the share of persons without a high school diploma in Lancaster County. This effect should be noted when comparing overall educational attainment levels in Lancaster to those of other areas. However, comparisons of education trends over time are less sensitive to this concern because this changes are driven by shifts of the overall population, and the Amish are present in all time periods in Lancaster. While it is true that changes in the Amish share of Lancaster’s population could affect the County’s educational attainment statistics over time, it is unlikely that such changes would be the primary driver of education trends here. The subject, however, is worthy of further research.

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Building A Prosperous Community

Sharing a vision of Lancaster County being “a model of prosperity for 21st century America,” The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Lancaster County Community Foundation, United Way of Lancaster County and the County of Lancaster formed a partnership in 2011 to develop a program to monitor how the county is doing in realizing this vision. The program evolved into a prosperity indicators project called Building A Prosperous Community. LNP Media Group, Inc. joined as a media partner in 2014 to help raise awareness of the community’s work on the indicators.

The project is designed to…

  • Provide a benchmark of the county’s current state
  • Identify the areas that most deserve the community’s attention as we work toward prosperity
  • Monitor the progress that is made in achieving our vision for the community.

This report presents the fifth update of the set of indicators. To put the findings in perspective, indicators are shown for multiple years and, where appropriate, comparisons are made to the state of Pennsylvania and adjacent counties.

The report continues to be used by the community and organizations as the basis for discussions on where we are, where we want to go, and how to get there. The findings are the foundation for program actions and policies designed to move Lancaster County closer to the goal of being a model of prosperity.

We are excited to share this update of Lancaster County’s Prosperity Indicators with the community.

BAY Prosperity Indicators Presentation

My focus today is on Prosperity Indicators that track the well-being of people. I think we can agree that all of the indicators discussed this morning affect the quality of life in our community. Since that’s the case, I’ll talk not just in terms of the well-being indicators I’ve been asked to review, but I’ll also briefly consider the changes in all the indicators we’ve heard about this morning and what they collectively seem to show us.  I plan to finish by introducing additional indicators we need to think about now and some ideas about the role our business community can play in maintaining the well-being of people.

Well Being of People

In general, the well-being indicators suggest that Lancaster is in a pretty good place:.

  • Population change is a bit slower than it was in 2010, but not by much and it is still better than population growth in the state.
  • Life satisfaction and well-being scores, according to Gallup, show that we’ve lost some ground since 2011, but that we are still better than our local peers and are among the top quartile of all the metro areas in the nation.
  • Teen birth rates are lower now than they were and they continue to decline.
  • Real income, particularly in relation to increases in consumer prices, put us in a much better place than in 2010. In the aggregate the number of citizens living in poverty has remained stable.
  • If there is a concerning trend in the Prosperity Indicator data it is increasing housing costs. More renters today spend over 30% of their income for housing than in 2010 (although the opposite is true for owners).  This isn’t something that Lancaster is alone in experiencing, but it is concerning.

These seven well-being indicators, nine if you consider sub-components, show that Lancaster has made progress or held steady on four and has slipped by a tiny amount on five.

If you add all of these up, you see stability.  Some improvement, some decline, but mostly stable.  I think these well-being indicators show pretty much the same pattern as shown by the other indicators: Lancaster is pretty good and holding steady compared to its peers in the state, and the state as a whole.

The prosperity indicators suggest that most Lancaster County residents are really pleased by the quality of life this community provides.  This is confirmed by surveys we’ve conducted over the years with the Lancaster County Community Foundation (show slide).  Citizens are generally satisfied with Lancaster as a place to live, raise a family, buy a home, send a child to school, and find a job.  Consistent with the well-being prosperity indicators, citizens’ attitudes toward these attributes are generally positive and consistent over time.

1

One thing to notice is that we are starting to see a decline in the community as a place to live, a place to buy a home, and a place to send kids to school.  Not big changes, but the trajectory of our most recent data from this past summer is concerning.  On a positive note, we’ve seen improvement in satisfaction with Lancaster as a place to find a job, although it remains the attribute our citizens are least satisfied with.  (4 = excellent, 3 = good, 2 = fair, 1 = poor)

 

But I worry that by emphasizing the big picture, as I’m doing here and as the Prosperity Indicators do, we miss some important nuances that if left unconsidered might create severe problems for us in the future.  [new slide] This leads me to something else we need to notice: different groups rate the attributes that support a high quality of life in Lancaster differently.  The left-hand axis of this figure displays different demographic groups.  The dots represent each group’s rating of each attribute.

2

Together, the patterns become a bit clearer. Non-whites, those with less formal education, those with less income, and residents of the City in particular seem to be much less positive than others about the quality of life in Lancaster.  In particular, notice the differences by income and education.

3

This brings us to the heart of the matter: hourly wage rates in Lancaster County, when adjusted for inflation, are actually decreasing for persons on the lower half of the earnings scale. The pay of the lowest paid 25 percent of workers has decreased (by four percent) since 2001.

Inflation Adjusted Hourly Wages by Percentile

Lancaster County Average Hourly Wage, Adjusted for Inflation (2015 Dollars) Percent Change from 2001 to 2015
2001 2015
10th percentile $9.26 $8.85 -4%
25th percentile $11.84 $11.35 -4%
Median $16.54 $16.41 -1%
75th percentile $23.62 $24.00 2%
90th percentile $34.03 $35.64 5%

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Estimates and Consumer Price Index

Lancaster, like many other communities, has experienced a major structural shift in its economy that has disproportionately affected less skilled workers.  Lancaster County’s job market has experienced a rapid decline in manufacturing employment and a significant expansion in service employment, particularly in the health care sector. This has created a widespread decline in household income as manufacturing jobs that formerly provided families with stable, moderate incomes are replaced by lower-wage service sector jobs.

 

Manufacturing and Health Care Trends

5

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis Local Area Personal Income Estimates

County level data by industry sector provide a snapshot of how Black, Latino, and White households have experienced the industrial shift from manufacturing to services. Latinos experienced the largest proportional manufacturing job loss (-16%), followed by Blacks (-12%), then Whites (-9%).  Black and Latino employment increased in two very low paying sectors: retail and hospitality. For an average worker, a shift from manufacturing into retail or hospitality meant a pay cut of 50 to 70 percent. The red numbers in these tables indicate a weekly wage difference that is below the manufacturing wage.  The problem of decreased earnings power for many workers is compounded by more part-time employment, particularly among City employers.

The Effects of Manufacturing Job Loss by Race

Change in Share of Employment (2000 to 2013) Estimated Weekly Wages Weekly Wage Difference from Manufacturing
Latino Manufacturing Job Loss -15.9% $808  
Latinos gained jobs in:
Health Care +8.2% $586 ($222)
Transportation +3.2% $731 ($77)
Food and Hotels +2.3% $288 ($520)
Retail Trade +1.8% $410 ($398)
Wholesale Trade +1.5% $744 ($64)

 

Change in Share of Employment (2000 to 2013) Estimated Weekly Wages Weekly Wage Difference from Manufacturing
Black Manufacturing Job Loss -11.8% $862  
Blacks gained jobs in:
Health Care +11.1% $583 ($279)
Retail Trade +2.5% $365 ($498)
Food and Hotels +2.1% $279 ($583)
Transportation +1.7% $717 ($145)

 

Change in Share of Employment (2000 to 2013) Estimated Weekly Wages Weekly Wage Difference from Manufacturing
White Manufacturing Job Loss -9.2% $1,071  
Whites gained jobs in:
Health Care +5.3% $836 ($235)
Management +1.4% $1,295 $224
Professional and Technical +1.0% $1,143 $72
Transportation +1.0% $879 ($192)

 

 

Solutions

The labor market trends we’re seeing are probably no surprise to anyone in this room.  But they demand that all of us think about jobs and wages.  Otherwise, we are likely to experience increasing poverty and the pathologies and dysfunction that accompany it.

The trends of wage stagnation and jobs shifting into industries that pay poorly mean even those who are employed often find themselves in poverty. Census data show that half of the City’s non-disabled, working-age population who live in poverty are working. For these 3,000 individuals, an increase in pay could lift them, and their families, out of poverty.  It is similarly important to consider the economic conditions of the 1,000 single working women in the City that are raising families but living in poverty.  If the earnings of these women increased it could reduce poverty for about 20 percent of the population currently in poverty in Lancaster City.  If programs such as affordable child-care were put in place to reduce barriers to employment for single parents, the potential for poverty alleviation within this group would be increased further. Such policies could benefit individual families while broadening the economic base of the city.

Job scarcity is a second root cause of economic hardship.  Proactive hiring policies working alongside employer-based education and training programs, community-based employment support programs, or child-care programs would improve the quality of life for many.

While, it is true that increasing educational opportunities and reducing barriers to educational access are critically important for the long-term economic well-being of Lancaster residents, additional formal education is not a practical solution for many of the persons who are experiencing hardship because stable manufacturing jobs have disappeared and wages for the jobs that replaced them have stagnated. Educational opportunities need to be strengthened, but this needs to happen in tandem with increasing compensation in the service sector and employers being open to hiring and training the many community members who have been forced to change careers.

I guess what I’m acknowledging today is that our business community, YOU, is going to be the most important resource in helping us maintain this community’s quality of life.  Our data show a real divide in the lived experience of community members, particularly those with fewer formal skills, who have been affected by economic changes that put them at risk and make them anxious.  We need to look no farther than this past election to know they are demanding both acknowledgment and support.  Whatever you can do to provide that support in conjunction with our strong and increasingly innovative social services sector will make a difference in maintaining and improving the lives of everyone in this community.