New data announced by the Department of Agriculture shows that rural counties with low education levels have worse economic outcomes than other rural counties.
USDA’s Economic Research Service classifies 467 counties as “low education” counties, where at least 20 percent of working-age adults, ages 25 to 64, do not have a high school diploma or equivalent. Nearly 80 percent of those counties are rural. A rural non-metro county, as considered by USDA, consists of either open countryside, rural towns with fewer than 2,500 people and urban areas with populations under 50,000 that are not part of larger labor markets, or metro areas.
About 40 percent of low education rural counties are also persistent poverty counties, with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher since 1980. Low education rural counties also had a higher average child poverty rate on average than for all other rural counties. Additionally, the unemployment rate of low education rural counties was about a percentage point higher.