As states transition into an economic era in which their fortunes will be determined by the education and skill levels of their citizens, policymakers must remain diligent in their commitment to creating policies that promote the expansion of human capital. Given the strong correlation between educational attainment and the transmission of social/economic status, education is increasingly cited as a prime determinant of economic well-being. In order for states to compete in the human capital economy, they must raise both the knowledge and skill levels of their citizenry.
Through a focus on the benefits of education, this study demonstrates the causal link between educational attainment and social welfare at the county level in each of the 16 member states of the Southern Governors’ Association. The Educational Needs Index includes 16 county-level variables that directly impact participation rates in postsecondary education, educational attainment levels, employment patterns, and socioeconomic status. The Index combines various statewide educational, demographic, and economic characteristics and allows for comparisons across all of the respective counties in the region.
To raise participation rates and educational attainment, policy makers need to have a broader understanding of the aspirations of potential students and the market forces influencing these citizens. The Educational Needs Index provides critical data that informs the educational planning process. The Index provides great insights for a variety of audiences, including elected officials, institutional presidents, K-12 leaders, educational researchers, planners, legislative staff, and policy makers.