Nevada: Education Low But Income High

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Nevadans are less likely to have graduate or professional degrees than residents of any other state except Mississippi, according to newly released Census Bureau calculations.

Some academics and public- and private-sector officials said the results, released Wednesday, aren't surprising in a state dominated by the hotel and construction industries, neither of which require large numbers of highly educated workers.

But while the Census Bureau linked educational achievement to potential personal income, the academics said that Nevada does not necessarily fall into that stereotype.

"Those that blindly follow this indicator will think we're more like Mississippi than we want to be," University of Nevada, Las Vegas economics professor Keith Schwer said. "But in income, Nevada is not a poor state. On average Nevada's a relatively well-off state."

According to the survey, which looked at people 25 and older in 2002, 9.4 percent of Americans had advanced degrees such as a master's, a doctorate or a law or medical school diploma. The District of Columbia led the nation with 23.6 percent of its residents having an advanced degree. Massachusetts ranked second with 14.5 percent.

In Nevada 5.9 percent of those surveyed had advanced degrees, barely above Mississippi with 5.8 percent.

Schwer, also director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at UNLV, said that when looking at other indicators of how well off an area is, Nevada does much better.

For example, he said, in a 2001 Census Bureau survey Nevada ranked 17th in average personal income while Mississippi ranked last.

Ronald Smith, a UNLV sociology professor, said that while the Nevada's poor showing in the 2002 survey, "doesn't look good on paper, but when you look at the niche we have it's understandable."

Smith and Schwer said that 60 to 70 percent of Las Vegans work in the tourism industry.

"The bottom line is that the economy, the job market dictates what we attract," Smith said. "And generally to work in the hotel industry you don't need a higher degree."