For Oregon Millennials, a College Degree Is Often a Ticket Out of State

Those who relocate—both moving in and moving out of Oregon—are more often educated than those who remain.

New Census Bureau data reviewed by state economists shows that Oregon's millennial residents continue to earn bachelor and graduate degrees at rates much higher than older generations, falling in line with national trends.

Oregon-born millennials have a 34.3 percent education attainment rate, slightly below the 35.6 percent national rate. However a big gap emerges when looking at the Oregon natives who still live here and migrants into or out of Oregon.

The census numbers show that migrants coming to Oregon have a 43 percent education achievement rate, compared to the 30 percent rate for Oregon natives who still live here. Similarly those who have left Oregon also have high levels of educational attainment with 41 percent being college graduates.

All of this raises the question of whether or not the Oregon-born population is seeing increasing attainment overall like the rest of the country, or if we rely on in-migration to raise statewide attainment. The good news is Oregon sees both happening. The influx of young college graduates does raise levels of attainment but importantly attainment for Oregon-born residents is rising too.

Oregon has seen an influx of migrants due to a booming economy. But those who relocate—both moving in and moving out of Oregon—are more often educated than those who remain. The Atlantic reported in 2017 that increased housing costs have kept uneducated people stagnant, whereas educated people have the mobility to relocate and find work in different cities.

The numbers were analyzed this week by Oregon economists. Their full report is here.

Gov. Kate Brown has made school improvement a focus of her leadership, especially initiatives to narrow the achievement gap between racial minorities and majorities, wealthier and poorer families, and those living in rural versus urban settings. Brown has been under fire for Oregon's lagging high school graduation rates, which climbed from 76.7 percent in 2016 to 78.7 percent in 2017 but still dipped far below the 84-percent national rate.