Educational Attainment

Educational Attainment refers to the levels of education a person has completed

Topic Score

Equity Score 58.25 Score is an average of this topic's indicator scores


The eight indicators in this topic quantify the racial disparities in educational attainment and suggest ways we can make progress toward equitable outcomes. The indicator reports that follow will allow the City of St. Louis and all stakeholders to evaluate policies from a fact-based, verifiable perspective. We’ll be able to learn from the data, see what’s working and what’s falling short, and use these insights to double down on good investments and experiment with new policies. 

The Educational Attainment topic studies the educational attainment levels of the entire population and highlights young adult outcomes. 

Black residents are less likely than white residents to attain all levels of education. There are disparities in educational attainment at the high school, college, and graduate school levels. 

Local colleges enroll black students but are far less likely to graduate them. Disparities balloon between matriculation and graduation day. While there are racial disparities in the rate at which young adults enroll in college, there is not one for mature students or the adult population overall. However, while nearly 3/4 of white students at these same colleges graduate within six years, less than a third of black college students graduate in a timely manner or at all.

Black residents are more likely to live in “credential limbo.” Black youth are more likely to become disconnected from social structures like school and work, which indicates a lack of academic momentum or credentials needed to gain a solid job. Nearly a quarter of black St. Louisans have some college experience, but are without a college degree. If all black residents in the city who started college were able to finish, St. Louis would increase its share of black college-educated adults by 250%. 

Because education gives people lifelong skills and credentials, racial inequity in educational attainment today leads to inequities in income, employment, and influence for years to come. Since a child’s educational attainment is often influenced by his or her parents’ levels of education, the advantages or disadvantages of more or less educational attainment compound over generations. 

For the Equity Indicators Project, the measures chosen focus on racial disparities. The indicators are reflective of the Ferguson Commission’s Calls to Action around educational attainment, but not all Calls to Action related to educational attainment are addressed within the scope of this project.


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What is our equity score for this topic?

58.25. The higher the score on a scale from 1 to 100, the closer we are toward achieving equity.  The lower the Equity Score, the greater the disparity.

Which Calls to Action from the Ferguson Commission report are reflected in this topic?

The Ferguson Commission called for education equity. Specific calls to action include:

  • Enhancing College Access and Affordability, by expanding the Access Missouri Program, reviewing all state scholarship programs, and supporting post-secondary access for DACA students.
  • Providing Rigorous Primary and Secondary Education, by developing school leader and teacher support infrastructure, ensuring equitable access to rigorous high school courses, and ensuring college counseling for all high school students.
  • Creating School-Based Early Warning Systems, that can provide a quarterly, early warning and coordinated community response system capable of tracking and responding to all students’ successes and challenges.

What institutions and organizations were assessed to understand Educational Attainment?

Some indicators in this topic assess all public and charter high schools, and four-year colleges and universities located in the St. Louis area. Colleges and universities measured include Blackburn College, Fontbonne University, Harris-Stowe State University, Lindenwood University, Maryville University, McKendree University, Missouri Baptist University, Principia College, St. Louis University, University of Missouri–St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis, and Webster University. 

Where did the data come from?

The data used in this topic comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the American Community Survey.

What stakeholders were consulted?

Stakeholders consulted include leaders from the St. Louis Public Schools and charter schools, the Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Forward Through Ferguson.

What metrics are missing and why?

This report does not include measures around associate degrees, technical education, and the educational attainment of people who graduate from St. Louis public and charter high schools. Community colleges and technical schools have growing importance in training residents for jobs in the new economy. However, associates degrees are the highest educational level of only 6.5% of city residents, in addition to having the smallest racial disparity.

It is difficult for us to follow the educational attainment of St. Louis secondary students. While the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education asks graduates their higher education plans, they do not report this data disaggregated by race. In 2016, 57.3% of St. Louis high school graduates reported that they would be furthering their education. Of these 976 students, 60% were going to 4-year institutions, while 40% were going to 2-year institutions.

Educational Attainment Equity Indicators

Number Indicator Equity Score
1 EA1: High School Graduate Population 
White adults are 15% more likely than black adults to be high school graduates.
2 EA2: High School Graduation Rate
Black students are 5% more likely than non-black students to graduate from public high school within four years.
3 EA3: Disconnected Youth
Black youth are 67% more likely than white youth to be neither working nor enrolled in school.
4 EA4: Bachelor's Degree Population
White adults are three times more likely than black adults to have attained a bachelor’s degree.
5 EA5: College Enrollment Rate
White young adults are 35% more likely than black young adults to be enrolled in college.
6 EA6: College Graduation Rate
White students are more than twice as likely as black students to graduate from college within six years.
7 EA7: Some College, No Degree Population
Black adults are 41% more likely than white adults to have attended college without earning a college degree.
8 EA8: Graduate Degree Population
White adults are nearly four times as likely as black adults to have attained a graduate degree. 
  2018 Equity Score 58.25


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