Spokane Trends Blog

Welcome to Spokane County!

Spokane County and environs form the 99th largest MSA by population, but combines the best of both a large and small city environment. A large, rushing river runs through the County, with lakes and mountains within a half an hour drive. The community is home for four universities, a diversifying economy, significant sports and cultural events.

Recent Updates: Featuring Education

3.1.1 Share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool – a big jump observed in 2022

Learning begins long before 1st grade. Increasingly, the evidence points to earlier age learning as key to children completing milestones, such as graduating from high school.  This measure relies on estimates from the American Community of the Census. It covers all “nursery” participation by this age group, whether government-subsidized or not.

As the graph shows, 2022 estimates show a huge gain for Spokane County over 2021. This marks the first time that the county’s share was above 50%. The estimated share is considerably higher than the rates for the U.S. and Washington state.

Graphs for the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley are available.

3.1.2 Kindergarten Readinessslow progress but below Washington averages

The WaKIDS assessment has been a part of the entry of a child into the Washington public K-12 system for over a decade. It evaluates a child’s readiness along six domains:  cognitive, language, literacy, math, physical and socio-emotional. The assessment determines whether a child’s skills in these areas are at, above, or below the standards of a typical kindergartener. Ideally, the child meets standards in all six domains.

The indicator shows that average share of all the school districts in Spokane County in recent years showing readiness in all six domains has been in the low 40% range. This is several percentage points below the Washington state average. The results, however, represent some progress from a decade ago.

Graphs for the Spokane and Central Valley school districts are available. Data for all districts is accessible via the “Download Data” tab.

3.1.4 Kindergarten Readiness by Race & Ethnicityalso below Washington averages

This new addition to the Trends tracks the share of entering kindergarten students of color meeting standards in all six domains in the WaKIDS assessment. The groups considered are:  American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian-American, Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Two or More Races. The overall rate is provided as well.

A comparison of fall 2022 to fall of 2015 reveals little progress in students of color in meeting all six standards over the past eight years. Generally, the County average scores by race/ethnicity are below those of the average of their Washington state public kindergarten counterparts.

Graphs for the Spokane and Central Valley school districts are available. Data for all districts is accessible via the “Download Data” tab.

3.2.3 Student who are English Language Learnersrelatively low & stable numbers here

English language learners (ELL) face formidable obstacles in the first few years of their schooling. By federal and state statutes, ELL students are required to receive special consideration, often bilingual instruction.

As this indicator shows, the number of ELL students in Spokane County’s public schools fell in the wake of the pandemic. The share, however, didn’t budge much, reflecting slightly lower public-school enrollments. The County rate is about one third of the Washington average, largely reflecting the much lower share of immigrants in Spokane’s population compared to the state.

Graphs for the Spokane and Central Valley school districts are available. Data for all districts is accessible via the “Download Data” tab.

3.2.9 K-12 Students with Regular Attendanceexperienced pandemic plunge

Studies have shown that regular attendance is highly correlated with desired outcomes, such as graduating from high school. Regular attendance in this indicator adopts the definition from Washington State OSPI:  two or fewer absences per month.

As the graph depicts, the pandemic has ushered in a steep decline of this measure in Spokane County. After peaking at 92% in school year 2019-2020 for all K-12 public students, the share fell to 71% over the 2021-2022 school year. This was still a slightly better result than the Washington public K-12 average.

Graphs for the Spokane and Central Valley school districts are available.

3.3.5 High School Graduation Rates for Homeless & Low-income Studentssome increases and better than Washington averages

Students from low-income families or who are homeless typically face more barriers to educational success. Homeless in this context follows the federal definition, one that is broader than sleeping in a shelter or on the street. Eligibility for free lunch defines the low-income student population. This indicator adopts the 5-year graduation measure, allowing a student an extra year to finish high school.

For 2022, 5-year seniors in the Spokane County’s public schools registered graduation rates of 72% and 81% for homeless and low-income students, respectively. These rates represent modest progress over the decade. They are also slightly above those of the Washington average.

Graphs for the Spokane and Central Valley school districts are available. Data for all districts is accessible via the “Download Data” tab.

3.5.3 Graduating Seniors Who Complete the FAFSAdeclining here

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) serves as guardian of the gate for federal student aid for post-secondary education. The completion rate of the FAFSA also represents the willingness to pursue education beyond high school. And to navigate the form. Up to the present, it has been a challenging form for many families to fill out. 2024 should bring a simplified version.

The most recent data (2022 school year) show that less than half of graduating seniors in Spokane County’s public districts filled out the FAFSA. This is slightly below the Washington state average and considerably below the experience in SY 2018, when over 60% completed the form.

3.6.3 Share of the Population with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher– below benchmarks but climbing

The American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census asks participants about their highest level of education. This indicator tracks the estimated share of the adult population (25 years or older) hold a Bachelor’s, Master’s, Ph.D., or professional degree such as an MD or JD.

For 2022, Census estimated that over 34% of all adults in Spokane County held one of these degrees. The county’s current rates are somewhat lower and considerably lower than the rates in the nation and state, respectively. They have, however, climbed considerably over the past decade, when the share was 27%.

Graphs for the Spokane and Central Valley school districts are available.

list updated 11.12.23

The complete list of Spokane Trends can be found here.

Monthly & Quarterly Recaps on the Local Economy Available

If you’d like to keep up with the current pace of local economic indicators before they appear Spokane Trends, the Institute offers two options. Two projects re done for the City of Spokane offer data at a higher frequency than annual. One is a monthly update of nine indicators. The other is a quarterly update of more than 20 indicators.
You can access the dashboards on the Institute’s website, available here.

Measures covered include overall labor market indicators, employment levels by sectors, building permits, office vacancy rates, industrial vacancy rates, airport boarding, driver's license surrenders from new residents and retail sales taxes.

The focus of both dashboards in many cases is broader than the City of Spokane. Of the nine monthly measures, five are county-wide. Of the 20-plus quarterly measures, nearly half are county-wide.

New Intern Features:

Victoria Tyni

Hometown: Battle Ground, WA

Major: Accounting

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2024

Post-graduation plans:
I plan to work as a financial accountant, with the hopes of eventually becoming a financial analyst.

After a few months of working on the Trends project, my favorite thing so far:
Seeing the impact of the economy and environmental factors on various aspects of different counties.

About The Institute

The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis is a research institute for applied regional research that provides easily accessible community indicator data. The Institute publishes seven community trend sites for nine Washington counties, all of which cover a variety of factors like economic vitality, health, housing, and more. The Institute’s work is aimed to promote data-based decision making and provide readily available and extensive data for communities across Washington state.

The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis’s website has been revamped! Check out the new and improved website here.