Census: Houston Lags in Education

Friday, September 23, 2011

Houston faces sharp divisions over education and opportunity, according to Census data released today.

More than one in four adults - and more than 40 percent of Hispanics - don't have a high school diploma. That's higher than the state average, and far higher than the national average of 14.4 percent.

On the other hand, more than 28 percent of Houston residents have at least a bachelor's degree, slightly higher than the national average and almost 3 percent higher than state figures.

Data from the Census Bureau's 2010 American Community Survey offers a mixed assessment of life in Texas: People here were more likely to have a job than those in most other states, and Houstonians were even more likely to be working. But even in Texas, the employment rate dropped during each of the past three years.

Incomes are down, too, although less so than in most other states. Poverty rates are rising, to 17.9 percent in Texas and 22.8 percent in Houston.

The education numbers drew attention to a long-simmering issue.

"An alarm should be going off for our leaders and all of our citizens," said Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of Children at Risk.

The American Community Survey figures are for adults 25 and older, but Sanborn said high numbers of students continue to leave school without graduating - 34 percent of students in Harris County, a figure he said climbs to 43 percent in the Houston Independent School District.

"Those are children and young adults that ? will never earn enough to move into the middle class," he said.

Gov. Rick Perry's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination - based in part on his stewardship of the Texas economy - ensures that the state's numbers will be scrutinized.

The median household income in Texas was $48,615, compared with the U.S. median of $50,046. Just 25.9 percent of Texans had a bachelor's degree or higher, while 28.1 percent of all U.S. residents did.

Perry spokesman Josh Havens said his office has not seen the data but released a statement agreeing that students must be prepared "for an increasingly competitive 21st century."

He said higher education enrollment in the state has increased 47 percent since Perry took office.

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