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Educational attainment

Question:
What are the trends in the educational level of the United States population?

Response:
Between 1995 and 2015, educational attainment rates among 25- to 29-year-olds increased. The percentage who had received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent increased from 87 to 91 percent, with most of the change occurring between 2005 and 2015. The percentage who had completed an associateís or higher degree increased from 33 percent in 1995 to 46 percent in 2015. Similarly, the percentage who had completed a bachelorís or higher degree increased from 25 percent in 1995 to 36 percent in 2015, and the percentage who had completed a masterís or higher degree increased from 5 percent in 1995 to 9 percent in 2015.

Since 2000, attainment rates among 25- to 29-year-olds have generally been higher for females than for males at each education level. Postsecondary degree attainment rates have increased more rapidly for females than for males since 1995. This pattern was observed across all levels of postsecondary education. For example, in 1995 the percentages of males and females who had completed an associateís or higher degree were not measurably different, but in 2015 some 50 percent of females had completed an associateís or higher degree, compared with 41 percent of males. Similarly, in 1995 the percentages of male and female 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed a bachelorís or higher degree were not measurably different, but in 2015 the percentage of females (39 percent) who had attained this level of education was 7 percentage points higher than the percentage of males doing so (32 percent).

Between 1995 and 2015, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed at least a high school diploma or its equivalent increased for those who were White (from 92 to 95 percent), Black (from 87 to 93 percent), and Hispanic (from 57 to 77 percent). For those who were Hispanic, most of the change over this period (i.e., 14 percentage points out of the total 20 percentage point change) occurred between 2005 and 2015. The percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed at least a high school diploma or its equivalent in 2015 (95 percent) was not measurably different from the percentage who had attained this education level in 1995. In 2015, some 87 percent of American Indians/Alaska Natives and 95 percent of persons of Two or more races had completed at least a high school diploma or its equivalent; neither percentage was measurably different from its 2005 counterpart.

From 1995 to 2015, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained a bachelorís or higher degree increased for those who were White (from 29 to 43 percent), Black (from 15 to 21 percent), Hispanic (from 9 to 16 percent), and Asian/Pacific Islander (from 43 to 63 percent). The 2015 percentages of American Indians/Alaska Natives (15 percent) and of persons of Two or more races (30 percent) who had attained a bachelorís or higher degree were not measurably different from their 2005 counterparts. Over the period from 1995 to 2015, the gap between White and Black 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained a bachelorís or higher degree widened from 13 to 22 percentage points, and the gap between White and Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds at this level widened from 20 to 27 percentage points.

From 1995 to 2015, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained a masterís or higher degree increased for those who were White (from 5 to 10 percent), Black (from 2 to 5 percent), Hispanic (from 2 to 3 percent), and Asian/Pacific Islander (from 11 to 22 percent). The gap between the percentages of White and Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained a masterís or higher degree widened from 4 to 7 percentage points from 1995 to 2015. In contrast, the gap between the percentages of White and Black 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained this education level in 2015 (5 percentage points) was not measurably different from the gap in 1995.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). The Condition of Education 2016 (NCES 2016Ė144), Educational Attainment of Young Adults.

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