May 14th, 2007 @ 10:09 am | Author: By Ellen-Earle Chaffee
We typically think that the one who benefits from a college education is the graduate, but in some ways all of us benefit. According to a national study by The College Board, college graduates behave differently than others in ways that make a positive difference for everyone. They are more likely to exercise regularly and less likely to smoke, for example, which helps everyone who is concerned about the rising cost of health care. They are more than twice as likely to volunteer their services for the benefit of others, and they are nearly twice as likely to vote in national elections.

It could be that a community, region, or state with a high proportion of college graduates would be a little better off on these and other dimensions. I was thinking about that as I read a recent flyer from Job Service North Dakota that gives a 2006 statistical profile of Valley City. Here is what we look like, statistically speaking.

Almost one in four of us have a bachelor's degree, and another one in four has some college or an associate degree. That seems high to me, but our average wages are relatively low – about $24,000 per year compared to a statewide average of nearly $30,000 per year. These figures seem to confirm other area labor market studies showing that some area residents are under-employed.

I love this one – the average commuting time is 12.8 minutes. I would have to walk really slowly to take that long! I would be willing to bet, too, that most working Americans need 12.8 minutes just to get from home to the highway, bus, or train they take to get to work.

About one-fourth of us work in management, professional, or related positions, another one fourth in service, and another one-fourth in sales and office work. Most of the rest are in production, transportation, material moving, construction, extraction, or maintenance, with just 1.3 percent in farming, fishing, and forestry. This is Valley City, remember, not Barnes County.

I was surprised and dismayed by the 2005 population figure of 6,439. I had thought we were still in the 7,000 range.

Of the 15 largest employers in town, three were "nondisclosable." Of the other 12, nine were public or non-profit services organizations in education, health care, government, elder care, and one civic/social organization.

From 2004 to 2005, the total number of jobs went up by five to 4,229. The number of state government jobs (which includes VCSU), however, went down three. Local government only went up by one job. Several categories went down that year, but others increased quite a bit. The gainers include transportation and warehousing (and they had the highest average wage), and health care and social assistance. The number of professional, scientific, and technical jobs went up 14 percent and the average wage went up 37 percent, making that a hot growth area in 2005.

Although this is a 2006 publication, many of the figures are from 2005 or earlier. Given the wonderful growth we have seen in several sectors recently, it will be interesting to see how the numbers have changed.