Demographics and Destiny

Each year, approximately 300,000 students reportedly begin eighth grade in a Texas public school. National employment and earnings statistics suggest that these students will have materially better prospects as adults if they finish high school and enroll in and complete a post-secondary certificate or degree program. Using data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Tribune is providing a look into the outcomes of students who started eighth grade in a Texas public school over the past nine years, according to the Tribune website.


Of the 335,708 students in Texas who began 8th grade in 200520.9 percent received a certificate or degree from a Texas college or university within six years of their anticipated high school graduation date. For context, a 13-year-old student who started 8th grade in 1996 is about 34 years old; one who started 8th grade in 2005 is now about 25.

The Trib has also broken down these numbers by ethnicity, gender, and economic status. Here is the statewide data. Equally interesting is the same information arranged by county and region. Here is the link (just scroll down).

It’s sort of fun to compare regions and counties, but those who follow educational statistics should find no genuine surprises. That’s the discouraging part. If your county has positive numbers, it will correlate strongly with income, parental education, and ethnicity. One flaw in using counties and regions is that large geographic areas often have enormous diversity within each. Homogeneous units are more predictable.

From a faculty point of view, it’s worth noting that student success generally doesn’t necessitate a particular pedagogy or shuffling of the curriculum.

Are we helpless in the face of the “destiny” of demographics? No. A good example of public policy bending the curve is the GI Bill passed in the World War II era, which helped educate millions of vets—many of whom came from poor families. They performed splendidly overall, helping build a middle class for generations. One might add that many of these students majored in the liberal arts and fine arts.