Profiles and Trends Section I. State Context of Higher Education

Figure 1.1

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  • 1.1. Educational Attainment of Working-age Adults and Personal Income per Capita, 2014
     1.1. Educational Attainment of Working-age Adults and Personal Income per Capita, 2014 Graph
  • Educational Attainment & Personal Income per Capita 2014 Data
  • Educational attainment and personal income show a positive correlation and are linked to a state’s economic competitiveness.

    In 2014, Tennessee’s per capita income was $40,457, ranking 36th in the United States. Meanwhile, 34.3 percent of adult state residents (25-64) had at least an associate degree, ranking Tennessee 42nd in the nation. The orange-lettered states in the upper right quadrant of Figure 1.1 scored in the top ten on the New Economy Index, which measures the extent to which state economies are knowledge-based, innovative, and globalized. In 2014, Tennessee ranked 40th in the New Economy Index, a slight drop from the 39th position in 2012.

    Note: The indicators of the New Economy Index are grouped under 5 categories: Knowledge Jobs, Globalization, Economic Dynamism, The Digital Economy, and Innovation Capacity [www.itif.org/publications/2014-state-new-economy-index

Figure 1.2

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  • 1.2. Educational Attainment of Adult Population (25-64): United States, SREB states (excluding Tennessee), and Tennessee (2014)
    Educational Attainment of Adult Population
  • Educational Attainment of Adult Population US SREB TN Data
  • Research has demonstrated positive relationships between educational attainment and various economic and social measures. The Drive to 55 campaign places high premium on raising educational attainment in Tennessee. The key factors affecting educational attainment are college participation and completion, migration of students and graduates, and economic climate.

    Although Tennessee has a comparatively large percentage of its adult population with a high school diploma or equivalent, it is below the averages for the United States and Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) states in college educational attainment. In 2014, 11.7 percent of Tennessee’s adult population (25-64) did not have a high school diploma, and 54.1 percent of adults had completed either high school or some college. About 34.3 percent of the state’s citizens aged 25-64 had a college degree, ranking Tennessee 42nd nationally on this measure.

Figure 1.3

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  • 1.3. In-migration, Out-migration, and Net Migration to Tennessee by Educational Attainment: Age 25–64 (2014)
    In Migration Out Migration & Net Migration
  • In Migration Out Migration & Net Migration to TN by Ed Attainment Data
  • Migration data, presented by degree level, underscore the relationship between the supply of educated citizens and interstate mobility. These numbers are essential for understanding dynamics of educational attainment and assessing the potential for statewide economic development. Figure 1.3 shows Tennessee’s success in attracting people from out of state with various levels of educational attainment.

    At all educational levels, the net migration of the adult population (represented by green numbers above the bars) is positive. In 2014, Tennessee imported 10,642 more adults with an associate degree or higher than the same population that left the state. At the same time, many arriving workers do not have postsecondary credentials: 64,062 in-migrants (55.8 percent of all newcomers) arrived in Tennessee with no college degree. 

Figure 1.4

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  • 1.4. Per Capita Personal Income in Constant 2014 dollars: United States, SREB states (excluding Tennessee), and Tennessee
    Per Capita Personal Income in Constant
  • Per Capita Personal Income in Constant 2014 Dollars Data
  • Three commonly used indicators of a state’s economic climate are per capita income, unemployment rate, and poverty rate. Figure 1.4 and the next three figures examine how Tennessee performs on these metrics.

    Income per capita measures the amount of money earned per person in a given region. This measure is positively correlated with economic health and educational attainment of the population. Per capita personal income trends measure improvements in individuals’ quality of life and reflect a state’s ability to raise revenue.

    Adjusted for inflation, Tennessee’s personal income per capita has increased over the past 20 years. Recently, it has increased from 85.8 percent of the national average in 2008 to 87.9 percent in 2014. However, Tennessee remains below the national mean and has fallen behind the SREB average since eclipsing the SREB average in the 1990s. 

Figure 1.5

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  • 1.5. Per Capita Personal Income for Each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions in Constant 2014 dollars
    Per Capita Personal Income by Grand Division
  • Per Capita Personal Income by Grand Division Data
  • In line with national, SREB, and Tennessee trends over the past 20 years, per capita personal income has been on the rise for all three of the state’s Grand Divisions (Figure 1.5).

    The relative positions of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions have been consistent over time. The average income for the Eastern counties of the state, at $37,213 in 2014, has been appreciably lower than the other regions, and the average for the state.  West Tennessee is slightly above the state average, while Middle Tennessee demonstrates the highest per capita personal income of all three regions, at $43,261 in 2014. 

Figure 1.6

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  • 1.6. Unemployment Rate for Each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions
    Unemployment Rate for Each of Tennessee's Grand Divisions
  • Unemployment Rate for Each of Tennessee's Grand Divisions Data
  • Unemployment rate, the ratio of the number of active job seekers to the labor force, is another critical indicator of states’ economic health. Figure 1.6 presents unemployment rate changes in Tennessee by Grand Division.

    Recessions in the early and late 2000s led to accelerated growth in this indicator. The state’s unemployment rate reached a peak of 10.5 percent in 2009 and declined gradually to 6.7 percent in 2014. West Tennessee has consistently had a higher unemployment rate than the other Divisions. The Eastern counties have an unemployment rate that is very close to the state’s average. Middle Tennessee demonstrates the lowest percent of unemployed populace; its rate of unemployment has decreased from 10.1 in 2009 to 5.8 percent in 2014. Figures 1.5 and 1.6 attest to economic vitality of Middle Tennessee.

Figure 1.7

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  • 1.7. Poverty Rate for Each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions
    Poverty Rate for Each of Tennessee's Grand Divisions
  • Poverty Rate for Each of Tennessee's Grand Divisions Data
  • The poverty rate is a key economic and social indicator that denotes the inadequacy of family incomes for the consumption of food and other goods and services. The U.S. Census calculates this metric by measuring the number of individuals in a household below the poverty threshold against the total population. Poverty thresholds are based on age, the number of household members older than 18, and dependents younger than 18 years of age.

    Figure 1.7 shows that Middle Tennessee has had the lowest poverty rate over time, while the West has been consistently higher on this indicator than the other Grand Divisions.

    Taken together, Figures 1.5 through 1.7 demonstrate a consistent and large disparity in West Tennessee among social strata in its population. That is, West Tennessee consistently outpaces the state average in personal income per capita; yet it also has the highest rates of poverty and unemployment among the Grand Divisions of the state.

Figure 1.8

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  • 1.8. Changes in Tennessee’s Age Composition
    Changes in Tennessee's Age Composition
  • Changes in Tennessee's Age Composition Data
  • Demographic changes in the state have a direct impact on student enrollment patterns and student body composition. Research shows that these factors affect various educational outcomes. The most critical demographic changes include shifts in the age and racial/ethnic composition of the state’s population. Figure 1.8 and Figure 1.9 focus on these dynamics.

    Figure 1.8 shows that over the last 14 years, Tennessee’s population has increased by 32.3 percent. It has also grown perceptibly older: the share of young people has decreased, while the proportions of working-age and older individuals have risen. Aside from economic and social impacts of an aging population, critical implications for education include: a growing share of nontraditional students; shifts in demand for training, program offerings, and new modes of delivery; and the ever-present need for continued education.

Figure 1.9

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  • 1.9. Changes in Racial / Ethnic Composition among Tennessee’s Youth
    Changes in Racial Ethnic Composition Amount Tennesee's Youth
  • Changes in Racial / Ethnic Composition among Tennessee's Youth Data
  • Figure 1.9 shows changes in the ethnic composition of the population under 18 years of age—potential higher education students—from 2000 to 2014.

    Over the past 14 years, the share of nonwhite youth has risen dramatically: the Hispanic population grew by almost 230 percent, from 38,899 in 2000 (2.8 percent of the young population) to 128,310 in 2014 (8.6 percent of the state’s youth). Over the same period, the Asian population grew from 14,129 to 26,539, an 87.8 percent increase, now representing 1.8 percent of the state’s young population. In contrast, the proportion of whites has decreased by 6.7 percentage points and, at present, constitutes 66.3 percent of the state’s young population.

    These demographic changes will have implications for a number of college outcomes—from enrollment to graduation.      

Figure 1.10

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  • 1.10. Tennessee Population Projections by Racial / Ethnic Group: 2015-2045
    Tennessee Population Projections by Racial / Ethnic Group: 2015-2045
  • Tennessee Population Projections by Racial / Ethnic Group 2015-2045 Data
  • The U.S. Census Bureau projects that, over time, the United States will become a plurality nation, in which the white population will remain the largest group, but no single racial/ethnic group will make up a majority. The U.S. is projected to become a plurality (majority-minority) nation in 2043. Already the USA’s largest minority group, Hispanics will continue to experience the biggest increase in the share of the overall population.

    Figure 1.10 shows that Tennessee will follow these national trends. From 2015 to 2045, the white population’s share is projected to decrease from almost 74 percent to approximately 61 percent of the overall state population. During the same period, the share of Hispanics will increase by 7.2 percentage points to 12.7 percent. This projected growth of the Hispanic population will outpace the increase in the Black population (0.9 percentage points) and all other non-Hispanic populations (4.9 percentage points).