December 2015: Exploring Educational Attainment in the Newark Region

In this series of posts, we will explore a few different methods to understand the landscape of educational attainment in Newark and the surrounding area. Educational attainment is important at both the individual and the citywide or regional level. At the individual level, obtaining postsecondary education is critically important for competing in today’s knowledge-based economy. Postsecondary education is also a critical vehicle that enables residents to escape from poverty, earn higher incomes, and build wealth. At the citywide or regional level, an educated population reduces the prevalence of poverty, attracts high-skill and high-paying jobs, and increases income within communities, some of which is transferred to municipal coffers via local taxes. Due to these reasons, increasing the prevalence of postsecondary education in Newark is an issue that currently garners much attention from civic leaders and stakeholders. It is therefore important to have an understanding of how educational attainment is changing in the Newark region.

December 8, 2015:

Postsecondary Attainment is Growing, but Disparities Persist.

In this post, we will examine attainment of Associate Degrees or higher and explore how the prevalence of postsecondary attainment has grown in the region over the past two decades.

The maps to the right show the percentage of residents in each neighborhood (census tract) that have attained at least an Associate Degree, with darker shades indicating a higher percentage of residents. Immediately noticeable in this series of maps is the stark difference between the prevalence of postsecondary attainment found in Newark neighborhoods and that found in neighborhoods in surrounding towns and cities. Also of note are the locations of the neighborhoods that have experienced growth of postsecondary degree attainment in the past two decades, and, conversely, neighborhoods that have not experienced such growth. In 1990, there were only three (3) neighborhoods in Newark where at least 25% of residents 25 years of age and older had earned at least an Associate Degree. These neighborhoods were located in Newark’s Central Ward—near the Downtown and University Heights areas. In the 2009-2013 map in this series, we can see that some Newark neighborhoods have changed to a darker shade, thus indicating that postsecondary degree attainment has become more prevalent throughout more parts of the city.

While this change is certainly a positive outcome for Newark, the maps also show that many more neighborhoods in towns and cities immediately surrounding Newark increased their rate of postsecondary degree attainment compared to Newark neighborhoods. A prime example of this is Newark’s neighbor to the east, Jersey City, where many neighborhoods have grown darker in shade over the years while most Newark neighborhoods have remained the lightest shade. What is not possible to see in the maps is the rate at which postsecondary attainment has grown over the years. The chart below shows this, while reinforcing the disparity found in the region.


The chart shows that Associate-or-higher degree attainment in Newark actually slightly outpaced the growth experienced in New Jersey and the U.S. as a whole from 1990 to 2009-2013. This is also a positive outcome, and one that may even be surprising. Despite this slight outpacing, however, Newark’s rate of postsecondary attainment remains well below that of New Jersey and the United States. Jersey City, whose rate of postsecondary degree attainment fell below both the U.S. and New Jersey in 1990, experienced an 84% increase in its rate of attainment over this same period, far outpacing the U.S., the State of New Jersey, and Newark. Jersey City’s growth in postsecondary degree attainment was so extreme that its citywide rate of attainment is now above the U.S. and New Jersey.

The positive take-away from the maps and chart shown here is the increase in the rate of postsecondary degree attainment seen in Newark over the latter part of this two-decade period. We can see this in the maps, where more neighborhoods are shaded darker in the most recent period, and in the chart, where Newark exhibits a slightly steeper rate of growth in its degree attainment rate. 

Although postsecondary attainment is a useful barometer to gauge the relative educational health of a community, we can dive deeper for a more comprehensive view of attainment dynamics across our region. We will do this in our next post by exploring the most common level of education attained in our region’s neighborhoods. 

Click here for the PDF version of this article. 


Author: John Manieri, AICP 

Research, Analysis, and Technical Assistance: Chanel Donaldson, Dineth Correia

December 15, 2015:

Disparities Persist in Terms of Changes in the Most Common Level of Education Attained

In this post we take a deeper look at educational attainment in our region by exploring the level of education most commonly attained in our neighborhoods. Rather than observing individual educational attainment levels (e.g. Associate Degrees and higher), this approach lets us more easily see concentrated areas of both high and low attainment, and any changes in concentration occurring over time. Areas of concentration can be predictors of outcomes for individual neighborhoods, or entire cities. Concentrated areas of low attainment, such as those where attainment is less than a high school education, are likely to be areas of high poverty and low incomes. Areas of high attainment, such as Bachelor’s or Graduate Degrees, are more likely to have better outcomes.

The series of maps to the right show the most commonly reported level of education attained in each neighborhood (census tract) for 1990, 2000, and 2009-2013. Let’s look at the maps in the same way we did the previous maps of Associate-or-higher attainment—by observing any changes in levels of attainment and any disparities in terms of the locations changes are occurring.

We can very easily see dramatic changes occurring from 1990 to the current period of 2009-2013. In 1990, less than a high school education was the most commonly reported level of education attained in nearly every Newark neighborhood. This essentially means that, in 1990, the whole city of Newark was considered a concentrated area of low educational attainment. With many of Newark’s neighborhoods changing from blue to green in the maps, we can see that many neighborhoods experienced a one-level increase in educational attainment, and currently report a High School Diploma or GED as the most common level of education attained. Some Newark neighborhoods experienced a multiple-level upgrade, rising from less than a High School diploma to some college but no degree, or even Bachelor’s Degree. However, this is the exception rather than the rule.

Similar to Newark, less than a high school education was the most commonly reported level of education attained in the majority of Jersey City neighborhoods in 1990. As with Newark, we can see a dramatic change in the most commonly reported attainment levels over this period. Where the disparity lies between these two cities is in the extent and nature of the change. Nearly every Jersey City neighborhood that reported less than a high school education as its most commonly attained level of education in 1990 experienced at least a one-level upgrade in the current period. Currently, there are only five (5) neighborhoods in Jersey City where less than a high school education is the most commonly reported level of education attained. The proliferation of orange and red neighborhoods throughout the years illustrates that many Jersey City neighborhoods have experienced a significant upgrading of their educational attainment levels.

Greater shares of the adult population are attaining higher levels of education at the citywide level, although disparities persist.

                                                                                                                                    Figure 1: Changes in Educational Attainment Levels

Figure 1: Changes in Educational Attainment LevelsWhile these maps give us a general sense of the dramatic changes in attainment happening across our region’s individual neighborhoods, they are unable to show specifics of citywide changes. Figure 1, to the righ,t allow us to compare attainment changes in Newark and Jersey City of over this period and reinforce the idea that all areas are not experiencing the same type of upgrades. The charts show the proportion of the adult population each individual level of educational attainment accounted for in the time periods observed. The change from blue to green in Chart 1 illustrates the one-level upgrading in educational attainment experienced by the Newark adult population from 1990 to 2009-2013. The proliferation of orange and red in Chart 2 shows higher education levels comprising increasingly larger shares of the adult population, thus illustrating a multi-level upgrade of educational attainment for the Jersey City adult population.

Educational attainment is growing—but what is the rate of this change?

In Figure 2, we can compare the changes of less than a high school education, Bachelor’s Degree, and Graduate Degree attainment for the two cities. These levels of educational attainment are three of the most critical levels to observe; as one indicates a population that is underprepared for competing in the economy while the others indicate a population that is more likely to be sufficiently prepared.

                                       Figure 2: Rate of Change in Selected Educational Attainment Levels

Figure 2: Rate of Change in Selected Educational Attainment Levels

We can see the decline in Newark’s less than high school attainment rate as well as the rise in the rate of Bachelor’s Degrees attained over the course of 1990 to 2009-2013. Newark’s rate of less than high school attainment fell from 8.2 times its rate of Bachelor’s Degree attainment in 1990 to only 3.2 times higher in 2009-2013. However, these changes were not as dramatic as Jersey City’s in the respective categories. Jersey City’s rate of less than high school attainment declined by 56% from 1990 to 2009-2013, while it saw dramatic increases in its rates of Bachelor’s Degree attainment (+70%) and Graduate Degree attainment (+183%). The changes in Jersey City over this time were so dramatic, that Bachelor’s Degrees and Graduate Degrees have both overtaken less than high school education in terms of proportions of adult population the levels comprise.

Although not as pronounced as Jersey City’s, such a narrowing of the gap between the lowest level of attainment and the highest levels is good news for Newark, as it suggests its population and workforce are more prepared to compete in today’s economy, more likely to earn higher incomes, and less likely to live in poverty. It is a trend that should be both celebrated currently and amplified in the future.

Changes in individual levels of education are important to observe, as different levels are associated with different socioeconomic outcomes. In other words, not all degrees are created equally, in terms of their income-earning potential. Read our post next week as we explore specific socioeconomic differences among education levels in our region and the impact these differences can have on our population, workforce, and economy.


Click here for the PDF version of this article. 


Author: John Manieri, AICP 

Research, Analysis, and Technical Assistance: Chanel Donaldson, Dineth Correia

December 22, 2015:

Education Proivdes Economic Benefits, but Disparities Persist.

In this post we will explore some of the citywide and personal economic benefits associated with increased education. To gain a better understanding of how raising educational attainment rates can affect a city or community, we will revisit the chart from last week’s post showing the growth of different rates of educational attainment, with one added feature—growth of per capita income.

Chart 1 shows that while Newark experienced an impressive 80% rise in per capita income from 1990 to 2009-2013, its growth seems marginal compared to Jersey City’s nearly 200% increase. Along with its rise in the Bachelor’s Degree attainment rate, Jersey City’s dramatic increase in per capita income could also be attributed to the dramatic rise in the Graduate Degree attainment rate over the years. These results illustrate the point that rises in educational attainment coincide with rises in citywide economic outcomes, and that the highest levels of education can contribute more benefits.

The college-going rate of the prime college-aged population directly influences the overall rate of educational attainment in a city. Seen in Chart 2, a relatively low proportion of Newark residents 18-24 actually attend college or graduate school, compared to residents of the same age in Jersey City and the State of New Jersey as a whole. This may shed some light on Newark’s relatively low rate of college-degree attainment and the growth of such educational attainment.


Disparities in personal economic benefits associated with higher education exist by city of ressidence.

Understanding the disparity of benefits individuals receive from increased education may help us to understand the disparities of both educational attainment and economic outcomes we see at the citywide level. The table below shows the median per capita earnings of residents with different levels of education and reveals some striking disparities between the earnings of Newark residents and those of residents of Jersey City and the state at large.

At every level of education, Newark residents earn less wages and salary from their jobs compared to median individual earnings seen at the state level and for Jersey City. Furthermore, the disparity found between Newark, the State of New Jersey, and Jersey City increases in nearly every instance of successive level of education attained. The greatest disparity in earnings of any education level shown here exists between Newark Graduate or Professional Degree holders and those at the state level, as Newark Graduate Degree holders earn just 63 cents for every dollar earned by typical Graduate Degree holders in New Jersey. Assuming a 40-year earning period and 5% annual earnings growth, a typical Graduate Degree holder living in Newark could expect to earn nearly $3,775,000 less than a typical New Jersey Graduate Degree holder over this period.

Also shown in Table 1, is the increase in annual earnings associated with successive levels of education. Here, too, Newark falls short of Jersey City and the state as a whole. In fact, the typical Jersey City resident would see three times the increase in annual earnings seen by a Newark resident who jumped from the some college or an Associate Degree level to the Bachelor’s Degree level.

Knowing the differences between what the data in the table is telling us and what it could be a reflection of is important. The data tells us that, compared to their counterparts in Jersey City and typical New Jersey residents, typical Newark residents earn much less at their jobs, regardless of their education level. However, this could be a reflection of a number of things, including but certainly not limited to the possibility that there may be a limited number of high-paying job opportunities available for highly-educated Newark residents to fill. This may even be a further reflection of competition from other highly-educated job-seekers from outside Newark rather than an actual dearth in absolute number of jobs available. These possibilities are merely meant to be suggestive and are not intended to prove the definitive causes of the disparities in earnings.  

The information in Table 1 may even serve as a window into why such disparities of college-going rates, and educational attainment rates overall, persist in Newark. Given the importance many prospective college students place on the possible return-on-investment of their desired degree, the small earnings increases (both in actual dollars and relative to others) that Newark residents typically realize when attaining higher levels of education may serve to dissuade them from continuing their education.

In order for disparities in citywide and personal outcomes related to higher educational attainment be overcome, connections must be understood.

There are likely many more financial, environmental, and socioemotional factors that serve to influence a potential college student’s individual decision to enroll in postsecondary education. However, if for whatever reason, Newark residents are unable to secure jobs with significantly higher earning potentials upon completion of their education, they may be not be motivated to pursue higher degrees, or they may be motivated to relocate upon completion. Both outcomes contribute to a low rate of citywide educational attainment, and thus lower citywide economic outcomes.

Given that increased citywide and personal economic outcomes are realized with successively higher levels of education attained, degrees with higher earning potential could be advertised and targeted to community residents in order to more strategically increase the benefits of higher education. However, given such earnings disparities, it may also be beneficial to strategically connect highly-educated Newark residents to high-earning jobs in the city in a more proactive manner in order to motivate residents to attain higher education and stay in the city.

These posts are not meant to provide definitive prescriptions as to how to overcome disparities in educational attainment or the disparities seen in economic benefits provided by gains in educational attainment. Ideas presented herein are meant to provide a glimpse of educational attainment changes in our region, the disparities seen in regards to benefits associated with increased attainment, and an overview of how certain issues, such as the growth of attainment, college-going rate, and personal economic benefits received are all connected. The better the connections of such issues are understood, the more likely the disparities can be overcome. 

Check back in January 2016 as we explore a new issue important to our region.

Click here for the PDF version of this article. 


Author: John Manieri, AICP 

Research, Analysis, and Technical Assistance: Chanel Donaldson, Dineth Correia