Education, Employment, and Earnings in Champaign County and East Central Illinois

Home to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign County is known for its educational resources. Previous blog entries on education have mainly focused on students: a university population’s effect on median age, median income, and poverty rate in September 2016, and comparing different sources of student enrollment data in September 2017. This year we’re focusing not on students, but on employment related to education, asking how Champaign County’s large education sector appears in county employment data, and in what ways we can (and can’t) discuss and compare education employment and earnings data across the region.

How does the education sector compare across the region?

First, we’ll look at the distribution of employment across industries in Champaign County, statewide, and in four comparison counties: McLean County, Macon County, Peoria County, and Sangamon County.

Table: Employment by Sector: Champaign County and Comparison AreasDownload table data for Employment by Sector: Champaign County and Comparison Areas.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Table DP03; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (5 September 2018).

Education appears not as its own sector, but under “Educational services, and health care and social assistance.” This sector is the largest in all six areas, accounting for between 20 and 40 percent of all employment statewide and in each of the five counties, but isn’t comprised of only education jobs.

Here, looking only at the breakdown of jobs within the Educational services, and health care and social assistance sector, we can draw a few conclusions about the relative effect of education on the high job share that this sector shows in all six areas.

Table: Employment in Education: Champaign County and Comparison AreasDownload table data for Employment in Education: Champaign County and Comparison Areas.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Table S2403; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (27 August 2018).

In Illinois as a whole and in Macon, Peoria, and Sangamon counties, health care and social assistance accounts for the greater number of jobs within the Educational services, and health care and social assistance sector. Jobs are split close to evenly between educational services and health care and social assistance in McLean County. Of the six areas, only in Champaign County does the educational services category account for many more jobs than the health care and social assistance category. This data allows us to conclude that Champaign County’s education sector is at least partially driving its comparatively large share of jobs in the Educational services, and health care and social assistance sector.

How do education earnings compare across the region?

Next, we’ll look at median earnings by industry in Champaign County and our comparison areas to find out if Champaign County’s education sector is higher-paying than the education sector elsewhere in the state.

Table: Median Annual Earnings in Education: Champaign County and Comparison AreasDownload table data for Median Annual Earnings in Education: Champaign County and Comparison Areas.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Table S2413; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (28 August 2018).

Champaign County’s median annual earnings across the board, which includes all workers in all industries regardless of full- or part-time status, appears to be the lowest of the comparison areas at $31,843. However, Champaign County’s median annual earnings in the Educational services, and health care and social assistance sector appears to be the highest of the comparison areas at $36,685. The pattern changes again when we look at only the Educational services subsector. Median annual earnings in educational services in Champaign County stand at $37,704, appearing to be higher than in McLean, Macon, and Peoria counties, but lower than in Sangamon County and lower than the statewide median.

Are the differences between these estimates statistically significant? Can we draw those conclusions?

We need to note that the above assessment of where Champaign County stands in regards to median annual earnings has not taken the not-inconsiderable margins of error into account. Testing the differences between Champaign County’s median annual earnings and those of the comparison areas for statistical significance may reveal that we can’t actually draw these conclusions. Below, we test the statistical significance of the differences between the Champaign County estimates and the estimates from the other areas, using the formula we discussed in the April 2017 blog post.

  |Est1 – Est2|
(√(MOEest12+MOEest22))

Table: Significance of Median Annual Earnings in Education: Champaign County and Comparison AreasDownload table data for Significance of Median Annual Earnings in Education: Champaign County and Comparison Areas.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Table S2413; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (28 August 2018).

We can see here that some of the conclusions we drew above aren’t really valid. In median annual earnings of all workers, Champaign County’s estimate appeared lower than Macon and Peoria County’s estimates, but is not significantly different from them. Similarly, there is no significant difference between the Champaign County median annual earnings estimate for Educational services, and health care and social assistance and the statewide estimate or the Sangamon County estimate for the same sector. We can draw even fewer conclusions about comparisons between median annual earnings in educational services: the Champaign County estimate is not significantly different from the statewide estimate or any of the estimates from Macon County, Peoria County, or Sangamon County.

What does this mean about how we can discuss this data? Does this invalidate any discussion of the estimates?

No. The estimates in and of themselves (with their corresponding margins of error) are correct. We can accurately state that the median annual earnings in Educational services in Champaign County is an estimated $37,704, in McLean County an estimated $31,084, and in Macon County an estimated $36,108. We can accurately state that Champaign County’s estimated median annual earnings in Educational services is higher than McLean County’s estimated median annual earnings. But we cannot accurately state that Champaign County’s estimated median annual earnings in Educational services is higher than Macon County’s. The relationship between the estimates – if Champaign County’s estimate is higher than Macon County’s, and why it appears that way – is unclear.

How can we proceed with discussion of estimates that aren’t significantly different from each other? What other data sources are available?

Wanting to compare data between areas or between years, and finding that the data points are not significantly different enough to make comparisons or identify trends, can be a familiar and dismaying situation for beginner, intermediate, and expert data users alike. So how can we proceed if that’s where we find ourselves?

First of all, if you’re looking for an answer to this question, pat yourself on the back for not ignoring the problem and just presenting the data with its apparent comparisons or trends anyway. After you’ve finished doing that, you have a few options.

One option is to do what we’ve done in this blog post: present the data, then explain precisely what conclusions you can and can’t draw from it, and why. This still allows you to have some discussion without presenting conclusions that the data won’t support.

If you really need or want to make comparisons between areas and across years, you can adjust your geographic or timeframe parameters. For example, if you were looking at municipal data and weren’t seeing statistically significant differences, you might look at larger areas such as counties. Or, if you’re using ACS 1-Year Estimates like we did in the example above, you could try looking at data for a more extended period of time and use ACS 5-Year Estimates. The larger area or the longer timeframe both might affect whether estimates are significantly different from each other or not.

Finally, you can look beyond ACS estimates to other data sources. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis are federal agencies that provide employment and economic data; the Illinois Department of Employment Security provides employment and economic data at the state level. Depending on your question or topic of analysis, exploring these sources in addition to U.S. Census data can lead you to a dataset that may be a better fit for your project.

One thing to keep in mind is that different sources may count or categorize businesses and industries in different ways. Employees may be reported at the site where they work, or at the headquarters site of the company they work for: if these sites are in different counties or states, it can impact how employment appears in your area of interest. Education jobs can appear in different categories: in the example we discussed above, education is a subcategory in the ACS employment by industry tables, but in some IDES data, education jobs in public universities appear in a public administration category. Some datasets organize employment data using North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, while others use Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes.

Since it can’t be safely assumed that all sources and datasets will be counting and categorizing in exactly the same way, we strongly recommend against making year-to-year or area-to-area comparisons based on different datasets (i.e., if you want to compare Champaign County employment in 2015 and 2016, get both years of data from the same source; if you want to compare Champaign County employment and McLean County employment, don’t look at Champaign County data according to the ACS and McLean County data from IDES). Making sure you’re drawing conclusions from comparable data is always a good first step.

Employment data can be confusing to navigate, whether you’re looking at education or another industry. The variety of sources can seem overwhelming, and even once you’ve selected a source, it can still present you with problems. But the variety of sources provide options and allows users to find a dataset that isn’t just a “good enough” fit for their analysis, but a great fit. And taking the time to ensure that you have strong data quality and solid conclusions will leave you with a better analysis in the end, regardless of topic or area of interest.

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