Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2014

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Survey finds Southern Nevada increasingly educated and diverse

A new survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau paints Southern Nevada as a more educated and diverse populace — at least according to community data gathered from 2005 through 2009.

The five-year American Community Survey released Tuesday shows that more Clark County residents possess higher education degrees compared to 10 years ago. According to the survey, 21.3 percent of county residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 17.3 percent in 2000.

The ongoing survey, which focuses on socioeconomic information in communities and is separate from the 2010 Census, took the place of the long-form Census questionnaire so Census workers can focus on calculating the size and location of the country’s population.

This year marks the first release of the five-year survey, collected over 60 months and billed as the most reliable of the American Community Surveys.

A look at education at the community level shows, not surprisingly, that money matters: Henderson leads Las Vegas and North Las Vegas in degree attainment.

With the top median household income of $67,819, Henderson boasts the highest percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher at 28.2 percent.

But Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West at UNLV, cautioned not to read too much into the education statistics. The numbers likely are tied to the economy and are not necessarily indicative of more educational opportunities for Southern Nevadans, he said.

The Las Vegas area lost roughly 100,000 construction jobs during the recession, forcing many of those workers to leave the state, Lang said. Meanwhile, a nursing and teacher shortage attracted more degree-holders to Clark County.

“The jobs that have been lost have mostly been construction, and they didn’t need higher education,” he said.

In addition, the days of casinos offering decent-paying jobs to less-educated workers are dwindling as the Las Vegas gaming industry increasingly focuses on the knowledge of gaming, how to organize it, the technology behind it and legal issues, Lang said.

Architecture specializing in constructing green buildings is another growing field in Southern Nevada, he said, and one that also requires advanced degrees.

Despite the survey showing more diversity among residents, Lang said, the end of the building boom in Las Vegas that brought many Latin American workers here is also forcing many to find jobs elsewhere.

According to the survey, about 21.3 percent of Clark County residents were born outside the United States — a slightly more than 3 percent increase since 2000.

“It’s likely that number would tick downward,” he said, given the sparse opportunities for immigrants who came here for construction jobs.

Of the county’s foreign-born population, 38.1 percent are naturalized U.S. citizens, according to the survey.

North Las Vegas has the largest foreign-born population at 23.4 percent and Henderson the smallest at 11.2 percent.

Language demographics have shifted in Clark County to reflect a more diverse populace. According to the survey, 31.3 percent of county residents speak a language other than English at home compared to 26 percent in 2000.

The study also revealed other social and economic trends in the region:

• More Clark County residents are driving themselves to work as opposed to carpooling or using public transportation. The number of people driving themselves increased from 74.6 percent in 2000 to 78.4 percent in the last five years. Henderson residents are more likely than North Las Vegas or Las Vegas residents to use their own transportation.

• The number of grandparents serving as caregivers for their grandchildren has remained about the same since 2000. Of the people who live with their grandchildren in Clark County, 39.2 percent are responsible for them full time.

• About 46.6 percent of family households in Clark County are married-couple families.

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  1. Interesting, must be why the talk radio ratings are way down...more educated people is not their demographic.