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Educational attainment

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

Response:
Between 1990 and 2013, 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 86 to 90 percent, with most of the change (3 percentage points) occurring between 2003 and 2013. The percentage who had completed a bachelor's or higher degree increased from 23 to 34 percent. In 2013, some 7 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds had completed a master's degree or higher, a 3-percentage-point increase from 1995.

Differences in educational attainment by sex have shifted over the past few decades, with female attainment rates higher than male attainment rates at each education level since 2000. For example, in 1990 the percentages of male and female 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed a bachelor's degree or higher were not measurably different, but in 2013 the percentage of females (37 percent) attaining this level was 7 points higher than the percentage of males doing so (30 percent). Similarly, in 1995 the percentages of males and females who had completed a master's degree or higher were not measurably different, but in 2013 some 9 percent of females had completed a master's degree or higher, compared with 6 percent of males.

Between 1990 and 2013, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent increased for Whites (from 90 to 94 percent), Blacks (from 82 to 90 percent), and Hispanics (from 58 to 76 percent). For Hispanics, most of this change (14 percentage points) occurred in the 10 years since 2003. For Asians/Pacific Islanders, the percentage attaining at least a high school diploma or its equivalent in 2013 (95 percent) was not measurably different from the percentage in 1990 (92 percent). During this period, the percentage of Whites who had attained at least a high school diploma or its equivalent remained higher than that of Blacks and Hispanics. However, the size of the White-Black attainment gap at this education level narrowed from 8 to 4 percentage points, and the White-Hispanic gap narrowed from 32 to 18 percentage points.

From 1990 to 2013, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained a bachelor's or higher degree increased from 26 to 40 percent for Whites, from 13 to 20 percent for Blacks, and from 8 to 16 percent for Hispanics. For Hispanics, most of this increase (6 percentage points) occurred in the most recent decade. For Asians/Pacific Islanders, the rate of attaining at least a bachelor's degree in 2013 (58 percent) was higher than the rate in 1990 (43 percent). Between 1990 and 2013, the gap in the attainment rate at this education level between Whites and Blacks widened from 13 to 20 percentage points, and the gap between Whites and Hispanics widened from 18 to 25 percentage points.

From 1995 to 2013, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained a master's or higher degree increased for Whites (from 5 to 9 percent), Blacks (from 2 to 3 percent), Hispanics (from 2 to 3 percent), and Asians/Pacific Islanders (from 11 to 21 percent). In 2013, the gaps in the attainment of a master's or higher degree between Whites and Blacks (5 percentage points) and between Whites and Hispanics (6 percentage points) were wider than in 1995 (when both gaps were 4 percentage points).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2014). The Condition of Education 2014 (NCES 2014083), Educational Attainment.

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education