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 Chicago, Illinois metro area, the 36.0% share is far larger than the comparable national share. Across Illinois as a whole, some 32.9% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the higher shares compared to all states.

Of the 10 metro area in Illinois, Chicago’s bachelor’s degree attainment rate is the third highest.

Those with a college education are often better equipped to weather economic downturns and remain employed. The educational attainment rate in Chicago does not fully explain the state of the area’s labor market, however. Across the metro area, 4.9% of the labor force are out of work, slightly 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 relatively high bachelor’s degree attainment rate in Chicago partially explains income levels across the metro area population. The typical household in the Chicago metro area earns $63,153 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.

Just as adults in the Chicago metro area are more likely than most adults nationwide to have a four-year college degree, the area is also home to a higher than typical share of adults with a high school diploma. Across Chicago, 87.9% of adults have completed high school, compared to 87.1% of American adults.