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Educational attainment

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

Response:
Between 1990 and 2012, educational attainment 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, and the percentage who had completed a bachelor's degree or higher increased from 23 to 33 percent. In 2012, 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 now higher than male attainment rates at each education level. 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 2012 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 2012 the percentage of females (9 percent) was 3 points higher than the percentage of males (6 percent).

Between 1990 and 2012, the educational attainment rate of 25- to 29-year-olds who received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent increased for Whites (from 90 to 95 percent), Blacks (from 82 to 89 percent), Hispanics (from 58 to 75 percent), and Asians/Pacific Islanders (from 92 to 96 percent). The percentage of Whites who received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent remained higher than that of Blacks and Hispanics. The size of the White-Black gap at this educational level in 2012 was not measurably different from that in 1990, while the White-Hispanic gap narrowed from 32 to 20 percentage points.

From 1990 to 2012, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who attained a bachelor's degree or higher increased from 26 to 40 percent for Whites, from 13 to 23 percent for Blacks, and from 8 to 15 percent for Hispanics. For Asians/Pacific Islanders, the educational attainment rate of at least a bachelor's degree in 2012 (60 percent) was higher than the rate in 1990 (43 percent). Between 1990 and 2012, the gap in the attainment rate between Whites and Hispanics at the level of bachelor's degree or higher widened from 18 to 25 percentage points. The apparent difference in the White-Black gap between 1990 (13 percentage points) and 2012 (17 percentage points) was not statistically significant. However, from 1990 to 2011, there was a widening in the gap.

From 1995 to 2012, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who attained a master's degree or higher increased for Whites (from 5 to 8 percent) and Blacks (from 2 to 5 percent). For Asians/Pacific Islanders, the attainment rate of a master's degree or higher in 2012 (18 percent) was higher than the rate in 1995 (11 percent). The gap in the attainment of a master's degree or higher between Blacks and Whites in 2012 was not measurably different from that in 1995, while the White-Hispanic gap in 2012 (5 percentage points) was wider than in 1995 (4 percentage points).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2013). The Condition of Education 2013 (NCES 2013037), Educational Attainment.

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