Study: Bakersfield is least educated in United States

Study: Bakersfield is least educated in United States »Play Video
Students attend 2010 spring graduation at California State University, Bakersfield. A Brookings study shows only 14.7 percent of area adults get a four-year degree.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Bakersfield is the least educated metropolitan area in the country, and that lack of education is hitting its citizens hard, according to a recently released study.

Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution conducted analysis on 100 metro areas and found Bakersfield had the lowest rate of adults 25 and over with a bachelor's degree and the second-lowest rate of adults 25 and over with a high school diploma.

Just 14.7 percent of locals had a bachelor's degree in 2008, which was the most recent year used in the study. The city with the highest rate of college graduates was Washington, with 46.8 percent.

Bakersfield ranked No. 99 with only 70.2 percent of its adults holding a high school diploma. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, had the worst rate with 58.3 percent, and Madison, Wisc., had the best rate with 94 percent.

Nationally, the rate of those with a high school degree increased to 85 percent in 2008 from 75 percent in 1990, according to Brookings. That's good enough to place the United Stated second among 29 developed economies in proportion of working-age people with at least a high school diploma.

The educational picture in Bakersfield isn't seeing much improvement, either. The metro area only saw a 1.1 percent increase in adults getting bachelor's degrees during the previous decade, which put it among the five slowest for growth.

There may be good reasons why educational rates are so bad in Bakersfield, and the first reason may be as simple as the area's diverse population.

Brookings showed more Asians (50 percent) and whites (36 percent) have four-year degrees than blacks (20 percent) and Hispanics (14 percent). Blacks and Hispanics make up 50.6 percent of the city of Bakersfield's population, compared to 27.4 percent nationally, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Brookings also said metro areas with the lowest rates of college grads historically have heavy manufacturing, agriculture and shipping industries that don't require college degrees.

"Considerable disparities exist across U.S. metropolitan labor markets in the educational attainment of their residents, due to differences in their underlying economic and demographic structures, migration patterns, and historical and cultural mores that affect the real and perceived return to education," Brookings wrote in its analysis.

A lack of education really hurts local workers, too. Just 55.1 percent of Bakersfield adults found work with only a high school degree, which was worst among the 100 metro areas surveyed. De Moines, Iowa, on the other end of the spectrum, had 76 percent of its adults working with only a high school education.

Less-educated workers have bore the brunt of the significant rise in unemployment from the recent economic downturn, Brookings wrote.

"Many of the jobs that they occupied -- in sectors such as manufacturing, construction and retail -- have likely disappeared for a considerable length of time, if not permanently," Brookings wrote.

Click here for Brookings full educational analysis, or click here for an interactive map from Brookings.

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