Building on research published by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Atlanta in Wardrip et al. (2015), this report explores the degree to which the economies of 11 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware include opportunity occupations, or occupations characterized by above-average pay for workers without a bachelor’s degree. Between 28 percent and 29 percent of total employment in these MSAs meets the definition of an opportunity occupation whether an occupation is classified by the typical education needed for entry or by the results of a survey of incumbent workers and occupational experts. Employer preferences for educational attainment as expressed in online job ads lower the share to roughly 22 percent.

Depending on how the educational requirement of an occupation is measured, opportunity occupation shares in these 11 MSAs range from almost 34 percent to roughly 19 percent. Local variability is driven not only by the types of jobs available but also by employer preferences for education. The educational attainment requested in online job ads varies widely across the MSAs and, to a lesser extent, over time.