A college education can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s life, and it may be more important now than ever before. Studies show the typical four-year college graduate earns $21,000 more than the typical high school graduate.

A four-year college degree may not make sense for everyone, however, and many are unable to afford college. Bachelor’s degree attainment rates vary considerably across the country.

Nationwide, 30.6% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree. In the Houston, Texas metro area, the 31.5% share is roughly in line the comparable national share. Across Texas as a whole, some 28.4% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the lower shares compared to all states.

Of the 25 metro area in Texas, Houston’s bachelor’s degree attainment rate is the fourth highest.

Those with a college education are often better equipped to weather economic downturns and remain employed. The educational attainment rate in Houston does not fully explain the state of the area’s labor market, however. Across the metro area, 5.8% of the labor force are out of work, higher than the 4.7% national unemployment rate.

Earning a college degree is one of the best ways to expand opportunities, especially to higher-paying jobs. The average bachelor’s degree attainment rate in Houston partially explains income levels across the metro area population. The typical household in the Houston metro area earns $61,465 a year, well above the $55,775 median income nationwide.

A higher bachelor’s degree attainment rate in a given metro area often means that a larger than typical share of area adults also have a high school diploma. Similarly, a lower than average bachelor’s degree attainment rate often accompanies a lower than average share of adults with at least a high school diploma.

There are exceptions, however. While adults in the Houston metro area are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than adults across the country as a whole, the area is home to a lower than typical share of adults with a high school diploma. Across Houston, 82.3% of adults have completed high school, compared to 87.1% of American adults.