Wyoming High School Graduates

My colleague Paul Flesher posted an interesting map of US. High School Graduates by county, in which Wyoming appears to be the only state with only the top two categories, i.e., no counties fall below 85%. I saw it (for better or worse) at a time when I was uninterested in doing more urgent work…. I was not aware that Wyoming had a top ranking in high school graduation rates (it does not, see below), so I quickly looked for some additional data.

The map URL was for an image on a blog. Finding the blog was easy but finding the context in which it was copied by the blogger was tedious; the search-terms I tried were not successful so I had to look for it historically (i.e, look through many postings; the URL of the image suggested it was posted in September 2015, but there are many pages for this month).

The blogger posted it in an essay connecting “high religiosity” with all sorts of negatives, and includes a number of maps supposedly indicating that US regions with high measures of religious belief correlate with poor scores on all sorts of other measures, including high school graduates: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/the-correlation-of-high-religiosity-in-america-with-everything-bad/

I read a few of the posts on the blog; it’s a fascinating blog, with many interesting (and overwhelmingly negative) observations about religion. I found the material about Islam especially interesting. Although it is overwhelmingly negative, postings include very well-written reviews of Quranic materials (including a new study-Quran edited by Syed Hussein Nasr), and there is interesting dialogue-related stuff. Nevertheless, I find the author highly opinionated, and an exemplar of how “Atheist Triumphalism” is often just as dogmatic as religious triumphalism can be.

Returning to the map: There was no descriptive material on the blog, but the map is apparently prepared by the Rural Assistance Center and was a little easier to find on their website. But the only descriptive information is this: “Printable map that shows the percent of population attaining at least a high school graduate education or equivalent by county. Data source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2009-2013 ACS 5-year estimates. (2015), Resource Type: Map”. https://www.raconline.org/search/search_results.php?keyword=graduates

So the map is based on US Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) data. From the ACS pages, I think the data refers to percent of persons, 25 years or older, with at least a high school diploma, listed by county of residence: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/meta/long_EDU635213.htm

So the map appears to show something quite amazing: Wyoming in fact appears to have no county with fewer than 85% high school graduates. And it is the only such state in the country! The State can do much better with graduation rates: Wyoming is only in the middle 20% for high school graduation rates, at 79% (this is something called the “four year adjusted regulatory graduation rate”), a statistic that is not so surprising. http://eddataexpress.ed.gov/ (and this report is consistent with Wyoming state education data as well).

The “by-county high school graduate rate” is curious, as Wyoming usually is not touted to business investors, say, as a state with a better-educated population than others. I’d like to think that our superb university plays an important role in attracting and retaining high school graduates. Nevertheless, the extent to which the Wyoming population has at least an Associates or at least a Bachelors-level degree is probably far more important in today’s world.

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