Nearly Half of Multnomah County Residents Have a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher

by Jake Procino

July 13, 2023

Educational attainment is a baseline metric of the qualifications of the labor market, and in Oregon, the population tends to have more education. Roughly one out of three people over age 25 in Oregon have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to 2021 five-year American Community Survey estimates. This share is even larger in Multnomah County, where nearly one out of two people have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher.

More education tends to correlate with higher wages. That being said, there are still high-wage and high-demand careers that do not require college education. Matching opportunities between local jobs and jobseekers’ skills and training is more important for an efficient labor market than maximizing the percentage of graduates of a particular degree.
Graph showing educational attainment share in regions of Multnomah County in 2021, Population 25+

Though Multnomah County tends to be more educated than Oregon and the U.S., educational attainment varies widely across the county. The western half of Multnomah County (split roughly at 82nd Avenue) has a significantly higher share of residents who have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher than the eastern part of the county. For instance, two out of three residents of Northwest & Southwest Portland have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with only one out of four residents of East Portland, Gresham, and Troutdale.

This data, which is from 2021, incorporates individuals 25 years and older, an age at which most people have completed their maximum amount of schooling. The data also includes some information about economic outcomes, such as unemployment and earnings.
Graph showing median income by education level

Looking at median income, Multnomah ($46,975) is higher than both the U.S. ($44,374) and Oregon ($43,305). Multnomah has a larger share of higher educational attainment overall and the county tends to have a higher share of employment in high-wage industries like management of companies and enterprises.

Breaking down median wage by educational attainment, there are not many statistically significant differences with Multnomah compared with Oregon or the U.S. Between Multnomah and the U.S., the only statistically significant difference is that Multnomah has lower median wages than the U.S. for those with some college or associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree. Between Multnomah and Oregon, the only significant difference is that the median income for those who have not finished high school in Multnomah is 8% less than for someone with the same education in Oregon.

The earnings gaps for different education levels are probably influenced by many factors, although the local mix of jobs requiring certain degrees play a role. Looking at earnings by education level across the population does help provide some insight into the wage incentives for people at different levels of education to live and work where they do.

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