We all hear the reports of 9% American unemployment. It’s a disheartening and continuing statistic and one that speaks to the heart of our economy, our educational system, and our social structure.

Interestingly enough, if you drill down into that statistic, there’s a nugget of information that can and should affect priorities of governments and communities as well as families and individuals. If you separate the unemployment numbers into those with college degrees and those without, the unemployment rate is more like 4.5 – 5% for people with college degrees and closer to 11 or 12% for those without, and even up to 14 – 16% for those without even a high school diploma, which gives us an aggregated total, then, of around 9%. So what are we getting at?

It’s a pretty well-known statistic that people with college degrees on average earn one million dollars more over the course of their lifetimes than non-degreed individuals. Even for those who do the same job, the one with the degree makes more.

So what we’re seeing is a movement in several cities in the United States to take steps to get those numbers measured and then increase the college graduation rates in their populations. It’s very much in the best interest of communities and governments to do this because of the impact on city or state revenues and overall attractiveness.

It’s all about business attraction.

All cities and states want to bring businesses into their communities, but companies most often need degreed knowledge workers. And if the college graduation rates are low, attractiveness suffers, and thus city and state revenue hover at levels below their potential.

Influx of business becomes a big win for a city because not only does the business itself pay taxes, which drives revenue, but employees with higher salaries pay higher taxes as well, unemployment reduces, and companies become contributors to the community, enhancing the social and economic development mechanisms of the city and state on the whole.