Nationwide Survey Shines Light On County Trends

The good news for Chautauqua County is wages have gone up over the last six years. The bad news is the county’s population continues to decrease, poverty has continued to increase and educational attainment continues to lag.

The information comes from the American Community Survey, a nationwide survey designed to provide communities with reliable and timely demographic, housing, social and economic data every year.

“The American Community Survey allows us to track incremental changes across our nation on how the nation’s people live and work, year-to-year,” said David Waddington, Census Bureau social, economic, and housing statistics division chief. “It’s our country’s only source of small area estimates for social and demographic characteristics. These estimates help people, businesses and governments throughout the country better understand the needs of their populations, the markets in which they operate and the challenges and opportunities they face.”

Survey results indicate the county continues to lose population when compared to 2010 (134,768 to 129,504). The biggest changes are among 35 to 39-year-olds (a 1.2 percent decrease), 45 to 49-year-olds (a 1.5 percent decrease) and 50- to 54-year-olds (a 1 percent decrease). Poverty has increased countywide from 17.1 percent in 2010 to 20.1 percent in 2016, with a 7.8 percent increase in children under the age of 18 living in poverty, a 2.1 percent increase in poverty for those between the ages of 18 and 64 and a 6.3 percent increase in poverty for those age 65 and over.

Chautauqua County reflected a national trend that saw increases in income. Median earnings for those age 25 and older have increased between 2010 and 2016 from $30,166 to $31,925 (5.8 percent). Census statistics show it pays to earn a college degree, where larger gains in earnings were seen in those with a bachelor’s degree, whose wages increased from $29,354 to $40,988 (39.6 percent), and a graduate or professional degree, where wages increased from $45,519 in 2010 to $55,475 in 2016 (21.9 percent). College non-completers or those with associate’s degrees saw their median wages decrease over the past six years from $33,772 to $31,600 (6.4 percent).

The county has seen some gains over the past six years in education among those ages 25 and over. Slightly fewer people don’t have a high school diploma (8 percent in 2010 compared to 7.9 percent in 2016) while more county residents are trying to attend college (15.3 percent in 2010 compared to 17.8 percent in 2016). Those gains haven’t resulted in more county residents with college degrees, however. The percentage of those age 25 and over with an associate’s degree decreased over the past six years from 14.4 percent to 12.6 percent while the number of people with bachelor’s degrees decreased from 13.1 percent in 2010 to 11.7 percent in 2016.

The lack of progress in educational attainment is evident among the population who lives in poverty. A higher percentage of those who have less than a high school education live in poverty now compared to 2010 (28.5 percent to 38.7 percent) while the percentage of those with only a high school diploma who live in poverty also increased (13.9 percent in 2010 to 17.5 percent in 2016). The percentage of those who attend some college or have an associate’s degree and live in poverty increased 5.2 percent over the past six years while those with a bachelor’s degree or higher who live in poverty increased by .8 percent.