March 1, 2016: Exploring Educational Diversity in New Jersey's Counties

In our series of posts for the month of March, we will explore how educational attainment is distributed throughout New Jersey. Just as in some of our past posts, we will be using the Diversity Index to measure the diversity and segregation of different educational groups. For this analysis, we have divided the population of adults 25 and older from particular geographies into four mutually exclusive and non-overlapping groups based on their educational attainment. Our four educational attainment groups are as follows: 1) those without a high school diploma, 2) those with a high school diploma and no college, 3) those with some college or an associate’s degree, 4) those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The proportion of the population in each group was used to calculate the Diversity Index. In this case, the Diversity Index ranges from 0.00 to 75.00, with higher values indicating greater diversity in attainment groups.

The results of this analysis performed at the county level suggest that most of New Jersey’s counties are very diverse in terms of educational attainment. Essex, Hudson, Passaic, and Union Counties all have Diversity Index Scores that approach the maximum possible score of 75.00, suggesting populations of adults 25 and older in these counties are more equally represented throughout the four educational attainment groups. Such high scores could be due to the presence of both affluent suburbs and high-poverty inner cities, as well as universities and colleges, all of which contribute to a mixture of attainment. Counties such as Somerset, Morris, and Hunterdon, however, have very low Diversity Index Scores, relatively speaking. These scores indicate that one or two attainment groups likely dominate the adult population in these counties. Probable reasons for such educational homogeneity could be the suburban and exurban communities in these counties, which are more homogeneous in their demographic and socioeconomic composition.  

Diversity is typically seen as a beneficial attribute. However, when it comes to educational attainment, the picture is not always clear. Homogeneous areas with high levels of education likely offer positive outcomes for their residents, while the same level of homogeneity in areas of lower educational attainment likely result in negative outcomes. Areas that are more diverse in educational attainment are home to significant proportions of adults from multiple groups on the educational attainment spectrum. On its face, such diversity suggests an inclusive area where residents from different educational attainment groups, as well as other backgrounds, can live together. However, we must take a deeper look at the smaller geographies that have more influence on our outcomes to understand if these diverse counties are truly inclusive. 

Use the interactive map and table features below to explore the diversity of educational attainment in New Jersey's counties for yourself. 


Author: John Manieri, AICP

Research, Analysis, and Technical Assistance: Steve Scott

Data Sources: 

U.S. Census Bureau, 2010-2014 5-year American Community Survey. Table S1501