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Louisville making modest progress in education attainment

Annual KentuckianaWorks Human Capital Scorecard shows more work to do

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Aug. 15, 2013) — The Louisville-Southern Indiana metro area is gaining ground on competitor cities in the percentage of residents with high school and college degrees, but the region still has plenty of room for improvement in these and other crucial metrics of educational attainment.

Those are among the findings of the annual KentuckianaWorks Human Capital Scorecard. Now in its ninth year, the Scorecard tracks yearly progress in the Louisville community’s No. 1 priority for economic development: raising the educational attainment of the workforce.

Downtown Louisville, Ky.
Downtown Louisville, Ky.

“Lifelong learning is absolutely the most crucial ingredient for Louisville’s future success because it links directly to jobs and quality of life,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “It’s encouraging that our collective effort is paying off, but there is clearly a huge amount of work to be done.”

The Scorecard, produced by economic and demographic researchers at the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute, is available online at www.kentuckianaworks.org.

The latest edition draws on three-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2009-2011.

More than a quarter of Louisville-area adults have a bachelor’s degree, the Scorecard shows, up from 21.2 percent in 2000. With those gains, Greater Louisville is no longer at the bottom of a group of 16 peer metro areas in bachelor’s degree attainment, having surpassed Memphis and Dayton. (Until 2007-09, the Louisville metro area had ranked last in bachelor’s degree attainment since the inception of the Scorecard, with data going back to 1990). See the last page of this release for a list of the 16 metro areas ranked by bachelor’s degree attainment.

The Louisville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes nine Kentucky counties surrounding Jefferson County and four Southern Indiana counties. U of L researchers long ago identified a group of 16 peer metro areas to serve as benchmarks for Louisville’s progress.

The Scorecard also shows that 86.8 percent of Louisville-area adults have a high school diploma — 10th highest among the 16 cities and an increase from 80.9 percent in 2000, when the area ranked 12th.

Louisville alone has moved up one rank level (from 11th to 10th) since 2005-07 compared to the 15 other central counties in the percentage of working-age adults with a bachelor’s degree, one of the measures tracked by Greater Louisville Project and the 55,000 Degrees initiative, still far from the top tier targeted by the community goal.

Other positive trends identified by Scorecard include:

♦ Nearly 31 percent of 25- to 34-year olds in the Louisville area – a crucial component of the workforce — now have a bachelor’s degree, up from 26.4 percent in 2005-07. That’s the biggest gain in 25- to 34-year-old bachelor’s degree attainment among all 16 metro areas from 2005-07 to 2009-11.

♦ In postsecondary degrees awarded per capita, Louisville is the only metro area of 16 to have moved up, since 2000, in every category: certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, graduate degrees and first professional degrees. (Despite those gains, Louisville remains 9th in postsecondary degrees awarded per capita).

♦ The percentages of 35- to 44-year-olds that have attended some college and those who have earned a bachelor’s degree are at all-time highs in the Louisville MSA.

The Scorecard also provides data on postsecondary degree awards in the STEM disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and all healthcare-related fields. These fields are seen as being the most directly related to long-term economic development.

“Providing education attainment data and STEM degree-attainment numbers is a good way to share data with community leaders throughout the region about the Greater Louisville area’s progress in raising the educational attainment levels of the region,” said KentuckianaWorks Board Chair George Burkley. “It’s an important service to provide our community partners as we work together to promote educational attainment as the key to growing and attracting more employers that provide better-paying jobs in the community.”

“The Scorecard adds a lot to the community discussion because it offers the peer metro ranking,” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees, which is looking at ways to raise education attainment to attract new jobs and improve quality of life for all Louisville Metro residents. “These critical data are vital to informing the strategies we need to use to improve the demand for a high-skilled workforce and prepare those high-skilled workers.”

Increasing education attainment is also a goal of the Greater Louisville Project. “The Scorecard’s data featuring production of postsecondary degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and healthcare-related fields is increasingly valuable,” said Christen Boone, director of the Greater Louisville Project. “These strategic degrees are seen as being most directly related to long-term economic development, and we know they impact Louisville’s competitiveness in the GLP’s 21st Century Jobs Deep Driver.”

This year, Scorecard researchers replaced annual data with three-year estimates from the American Community Survey. By combining three years of survey data, these estimates present a more accurate picture of educational attainment in the area; their larger sample size reduces the likelihood that a change in rank among the peer metros is simply caused by sampling error. This year’s Scorecard uses five consecutive three-year ACS estimates (2005-07 through 2009-11). Previously, there were not enough three-year ACS estimates available to meaningfully track trends.

Local colleges saw a big influx of enrollments as a result of the 2007-09 economic recession, a trend clearly reflected in the Scorecard: After three years of gains, fulltime enrollment at Louisville-area postsecondary institutions was up 56 percent in 2011 from a decade ago, while total enrollment was up 39 percent.

However, as the economy has begun to recover, local colleges and universities have seen enrollment level off.

The data for postsecondary degrees awarded in the STEM fields and healthcare-related fields come from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System administered by the National Center for Educational Statistics.

The Scorecard shows a nearly 14 percent increase, from 2010 to 2011, in STEM degrees at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels in the Louisville area, compared to a nearly 12 percent increase for the group of 16 peer metros as a whole.

Louisville also saw a bigger increase in postsecondary education for healthcare-related fields than the peer group as a whole: Healthcare-related degrees jumped 18 percent in Louisville from 2010 to 2011, compared to 10 percent for the entire group.

The complete “KentuckianaWorks Human Capitol Scorecard” is available online, along with graphs and charts of the data, at www.kentuckianaworks.org or by clicking here.

The Louisville Metropolitan Statistical Area comprises Jefferson, Bullitt, Henry, Meade, Nelson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble counties in Kentucky and Clark, Floyd, Harrison and Washington counties in Indiana.

The 16 peer metro areas are Birmingham, Ala.; Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Greensboro, N.C.; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Fla.; Kansas City; Lexington; Louisville; Memphis; Nashville; Omaha; Raleigh; and Richmond, Va.

KentuckianaWorks, an agency of Louisville Metro Government, is the Greater Louisville region’s Workforce Investment Board for the seven-county region including Jefferson, Bullitt, Henry, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble. The board is composed of leaders from business, education, government and labor who work together with staff to provide strategic leadership for workforce development efforts in the KentuckianaWorks region. Funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Investment Act, through the Ky. Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.


Percentage of the population 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree, 2009-2011
Metropolitan Statistical Area
Raleigh-Cary, NC


Lexington-Fayette, KY


Columbus, OH


Kansas City, MO-KS


Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC


Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA


Richmond, VA


Indianapolis, IN


Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro, TN


Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN


Jacksonville, FL


Birmingham-Hoover, AL


Greensboro-High Point, NC


Louisville, KY-IN


Memphis, TN-MS-AR


Dayton, OH


Source: KentuckianaWorks Human Capital Scorecard