Fordham’s analysis was conducted by John Winters, associate professor of economics at Iowa State University. Winters analyzed individual-level data within geographic areas for years 2015-2017, gathered from the American Community Survey, which includes annual income, employment, and demographic information for a representative sample of the U.S.
“With high unemployment rates, now is a good time for many people to invest in higher education, but they are still well-served to make educational investments that will pay off in the places they want to live.”
Winters' report also covered in a May 21 Fordham Institute story, "What you make depends on where you live, not just whether you went to college."
“The results are consistent with rising concerns that workers with less education struggle to keep up with their more educated counterparts,” writes Winters. “Competition for housing and other services in big cities drives up prices and further threatens the economic security of the least educated.” This means that a four-year degree is likely necessary for living comfortably in a large metropolitan area, but less so in smaller ones and rural communities.