WHAT would a more educated Oklahoma look like? We’d live longer, have fewer murders, be more financially stable and our kids would read better. What’s not to like about that picture?
Those are the predictions from a new Web site designed to estimate how education impacts states and communities. The Common Good Forecaster is a project of the United Way of America and the nonprofit American Human Development Project based in New York. The site attempts to infuse a reality-based boost to the well-known idea that education is key to many economic and social statistics. For example, the site notes that 16 percent of Oklahomans 25 and older didn’t graduate from high school. Thirty-three percent in the same age group finished high school while 29 percent have some college. Only 22 percent have a college degree, according to the numbers based on U.S. Census data. But bump each of those groups up to the next level of schooling, and the Web site estimates the median earnings for Oklahomans would jump 23 percent and nearly 112,000 fewer people would live in poverty. Meantime, fewer Oklahomans would be obese and live longer. Fewer people would be murdered, and those problematic prisons would have nearly 13,000 fewer inmates. Among details in the report that accompanies the estimator (both are available at liveunited.org/forecaster): → Education is the most important factor in poverty status. → A one-year increase in the average level of schooling in a community is associated with almost a 30 percent decrease in the murder and assault rates. → In general, the higher the income, education or social status level, the lower the likelihood of being overweight or obese. Schools serving students with the most needs often have the fewest resources, including less-experienced teachers. → A less-educated person is more likely to be unemployed. → Nearly 75 percent of inmates in state prisons throughout the country had not completed high school at the time of imprisonment. If current nationwide incarceration rates continue, nearly one out of every three black males will spend some portion of their lives in state or federal prison. → Infants born to less-educated mothers are more likely to have low birth weight.