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Education Attainment Up in Rural Areas, Report Says

The percentage of rural residents who have completed high school and some college increased between 2000 and 2014, although educational attainment levels remain lower for rural minority residents, according to a recent report. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture examined rates of rural employment, poverty, and education levels for  "Rural America At a Glance 2015." The report found that between 2000 and 2014, the percentage of rural adults with a four-year college degree increased by 4 percentage points while the percentage of rural residents without a high school diploma or GED decreased by 9 percentage points. Although this rate still lags urban areas, the report found that the percentage of rural adults who have an associate's degree or have completed some college is now greater than that in urban areas.

According to the USDA, educational attainment levels are lower for rural minorities, including black, Hispanic, and Native American residents. In 2014, only 13 percent of white rural residents had less than a high school diploma, compared to 40 percent of rural Hispanic residents and 25 percent of rural black residents. These attainment levels directly correspond to unemployment rates, according to the report. Rural residents with more education are more likely to be employed, due to a demand for more highly-skilled labor in rural areas.

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The report also looked into how education attainment rates have impacted rural child poverty and found that child poverty rates are higher in rural areas that have lower educational attainment rates. Overall, rural child poverty rose during the recession and has increased in post-recession years. In 2014, 25.2 percent of rural children lived in poverty compared to about 22 percent in 2007. 

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