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Are you out there, 40-40-20?

If Oregon wants to achieve 40-40-20 (recall that’s 40% of Oregon adults with a Bachelor’s degree, 40% with an Associate’s degree or post-secondary credential, and 20% with High School), it would be good to know if there are any places in Oregon that are coming close to achieving that so we can use them as models for replication elsewhere.

I looked at data from the American Community Survey (ACS) across all counties and towns in Oregon, for the 2007-2011 period and found only one that was at 40-40-20: Tetherow, OR at 48-52-0. A tiny (45 people), affluent, resort community outside of Bend, where all the employed adults work as management professionals in the education, health, and social service industry.

Tetherow may be a town to learn from, but it may be a bit of an extreme example of the conditions for 40-40-20. Let’s relax our demands and look for counties and towns that come close to achieving parts of the 40-40-20 goal.

Model Counties

Bachelor’s 40% goal

  • There is one county that is at or above 40% with a Bachelor’s degree or more: Benton County – it’s at 47-7-16. Go Beavs!

Associate’s 40% goal (I can only look at the percent with an Associate’s degree because the ACS does not provide estimates of the number of people who have any other type of less than 4-year, post-secondary credential)

  • There are no counties that come close to 40% of adults with an Associate’s degree, but Sherman County was the highest, at 14% — it’s at 16-14-28, followed by Josephine, Deschutes, and Gilliam. An interesting mix of non-metropolitan and newer metropolitan counties, all with higher than average employment in construction, extraction, and maintenance occupations.

High School 20% goal

  • Five metropolitan counties hover around the 20% goal for adults with high school education:
    • Benton (47-7-16)
    • Clackamas (31-8-24)
    • Deschutes (29-10-24)
    • Multnomah (38-7-21)
    • Washington (39-8-19)

Model Towns

Bachelor’s 40% goal

  • 42 (11%) of the 372 towns in Oregon recognized by the Census Bureau have 40% or more adults with a Bachelor’s degree or more. You can access that list here: Townsw40BS. These towns are our big cities, are very closely adjacent to our big cities, or are amenity destinations high in second-home ownership.

Associate’s 40% goal

  • There are two towns in which 40% or more of adults have an Associate’s degree: Tetherow and Wamic (which is also a very small resort community, in Wasco County)
  • There are six towns that are one standard deviation unit above average in the percent of adults with an Associate’s degree:

1. Tetherow (48-52-0)

2. Wallowa Lake (55-26-18)

3. Sunriver (50-22-4)

4. Neskowin (45-21-19)

5. Adair Village (46-16-16)

6. Camp Sherman (61-15-14)

These towns all share some characteristics as well. They’re small and either associated with high-value natural amenities and vacation rentals or adjacent to affluent communities.

High School 20% goal

  • There are 56 towns that hover around the 20% goal for adults with high school education (have between 16% and 24% of adults with high school). You can access that list by clicking here: Townsw20.

The take-aways:

  • These findings suggest that there are certain types of local conditions associated with the 40-40-20 educational outcomes: natural resource amenities, affluence, adjacency to metropolitan areas, and maybe others that you’ve thought of as you read the lists.

Though we can’t do much about the availability of natural resource amenities across all parts of the state there may be attributes of the economies or culture of these areas that can be replicated. How would implementing those conditions affect existing populations and their qualities of life? How might we play a role identifying or trying to create these conditions? What additional data might we need about these communities?

  • The findings also illustrate that there may be some difficulty ahead in achieving the 40% with an Associate’s degree or post-secondary credential goal.

Very few communities have attained it and we don’t have a reputable, consistent source of data about the number of Oregon adults with a short-duration post-secondary credential.  This demonstrates the importance of setting goals for program planning that are measureable and attainable – a key lesson for outcome-based, data-driven planning.

Authored by Lena Etuk, Social Demographer, Oregon State University Extension Service (2014)