The indicators in this chapter focus on a range of learner outcomes, including assessment scores from the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP); dropout and graduation rates for high school students; and college enrollment, labor force participation, and unemployment rates. These indicators show that, on average, public school students in rural areas perform better than their peers in cities, but generally not as well as their peers in suburban areas, as measured by 4th- and 8th-grade reading, mathematics, and science assessment scores and high school graduation rates (indicators 2.1–2.3 and 2.5). Generally, a smaller percentage of high school graduates in rural areas enroll in college than graduates in any other locale, and a smaller percentage of rural adults have a bachelor's degree than their peers in cities and suburbs (indicators 2.7 and 2.9).
The unemployment rate for older adults is lower in rural areas than in all other locales, and the unemployment rate for younger adults is lower in rural areas than in cities and towns (indicator 2.11). In addition, regardless of educational attainment, median earnings (when adjusted for geographic cost differences) for adults who worked full-time, all year, are generally higher in rural areas than in cities and towns, but lower in rural areas than in suburban areas (indicator 2.10).