Survey finds D-FW among more-educated metro areas; Though some groups lag, local rates outpace U.S. average

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 25A

Dallas-Fort Worth residents are more likely than most across the country to hold a college degree, according to a new Census Bureau study that found Americans more educated than ever.

The study released Tuesday, an annual report on education attainment in the United States, also found the area among the nation’s leaders in the percentage of blacks with a high school diploma or its equivalent. Nationally and locally, Hispanics lagged; only 54 percent of adults in the area have at least a high school education, the bureau said.

The Census Bureau results were gathered in a national survey of about 50,000 households conducted each March.

This year’s study found about 30.7 percent of area residents have a bachelor’s degree or better, compared with 25.6 percent nationwide.

About 84 percent of American adults age 25 or older had at least a high school diploma. The Dallas-Fort Worth area had 85.6 percent – seventh-best among the nation’s 15 largest metropolitan areas.

Only 57 percent of Hispanics nationwide have a high school diploma, and barely 10 percent have a bachelor’s degree or better.

“It’s a national disgrace,” said Adelfa Callejo, a Dallas attorney and longtime community activist. “Too many children drop out of school because they don’t have role models to show them how important an education is.”

Among cities in the nation’s southern half, only Atlanta fared better than Dallas in high school completion, finishing second with 89 percent. Houston finished 14th at 79.1 percent.

Five of the 15 largest metro areas – San Francisco, Washington, Boston, New York and Atlanta – had a higher percentage of college graduates than Dallas-Fort Worth.

Breaking the numbers down to small subgroups in the population shows mixed results. Blacks scored well: 89.5 percent had a high school education, first among the 15 metropolitan areas.

The metro area also finished fourth among non-Hispanic whites, 91.9 percent of whom had completed high school.

But census officials and statisticians cautioned that, just like presidential polls, the survey results are imperfect and should be taken with a grain of salt, particularly when dealing with racial subgroups within the metro area.

Steve Murdock, director of the Texas State Data Center at Texas A&M University, said only about 140 metro-area blacks were interviewed in the March 2000 survey. Because of the small sample, that part of the survey has an error margin of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Lowering Dallas’ percentage by 4.1 points would drop it all the way from first to fifth place among metro areas.

“When you get down to that small a sample, the data are being stretched beyond their usefulness,” Dr. Murdock said.

Businesses looking to locate a business in a major city often use such reports to see how educated a potential workforce would be.

If a city gains more skilled jobs requiring advanced education, people who move to the city to take those jobs can boost the education level of the entire area.

“I think when you look at those top cities in the report, you see places with strong university systems and strong job markets,” said Patti Clapp, vice president for education, leadership and workforce development at the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce. “The economic base that’s being built in Dallas is helping to assure us that we are moving toward having more people with degrees and more high-tech and highly skilled jobs.”