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Indicators

International Educational Attainment
(Last Updated: May 2015)

The percentage of 25- to 64-year-olds who had earned a bachelor's or higher degree was higher in 2012 than in 2001 in the United States (33 vs. 28 percent) and across OECD countries (24 vs. 15 percent).

In 2012, some 26 out of 32 countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)1 reported that 70 percent or more of their adult populations (ages 25 to 64) had completed high school.2 The OECD is an organization of 34 countries whose purpose is to promote trade and economic growth. Among OECD countries, the percentages of high school completers ranged from under 40 percent in Turkey, Mexico, and Portugal to over 90 percent in the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic. Additionally, 21 out of 34 OECD countries reported that 20 percent or more of their adult populations had completed a bachelor's or higher degree. Among OECD countries, the percentages of bachelor's degree completers ranged from 15 percent or less in Chile, Austria, and Slovenia to more than 30 percent in the United Kingdom, Iceland, the Netherlands, Israel, the United States, and Norway.


Table 1. Percentage of the population that had completed high school in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, by age group: 2012

OECD country 25 to 34 years old 55 to 64 years old Difference
   OECD average 83 65 17
Korea, Republic of 98 48 51
Portugal 58 20 38
Greece 83 50 33
Ireland 86 55 31
Italy 72 42 29
Spain 64 35 29
Belgium 82 56 26
Turkey 46 21 25
France 83 59 24
Australia 87 64 23
Netherlands 83 61 22
Mexico 46 25 21
Slovenia 94 74 20
Luxembourg 86 69 18
New Zealand 80 64 16
Finland 90 74 16
United Kingdom 85 69 16
Austria 89 74 15
Iceland 75 61 14
Poland 94 81 13
Israel 90 77 13
Hungary 88 75 13
Sweden 91 79 11
Denmark 82 71 11
Slovak Republic 94 86 8
Canada 92 84 8
Switzerland 89 82 8
Czech Republic 94 87 7
Germany 87 84 2
Norway 82 82 0
United States 89 90 -1
Estonia 86 88 -2
Chile
Japan

▲ The percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who had completed high school is higher than the percentage of 55- to 64-year-olds who had completed high school.
◇ The percentages of 25- to 34-year-olds and 55- to 64-year-olds who had completed high school are not significantly different.
— Not available.
NOTE: Educational attainment data in this table refer to degrees classified by the OECD as International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 3 for high school. The OECD average refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting OECD countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. Calculations based on unrounded data.
SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Education at a Glance, 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 603.10.


In most OECD countries, higher percentages of the youngest adult age group (ages 25 to 34) than of the oldest adult age group (ages 55 to 64) had completed high school in 2012. Across these countries, the average percentage of those completing high school was higher for 25- to 34-year-olds (83 percent) than for 55- to 64-year-olds (65 percent). In only three countries, Norway, the United States, and Estonia, did the youngest and oldest age groups have high school completion percentages that were not measurably different. In each of these countries, the high school completion rates for both of these age groups were above 80 percent. Six other countries also had 80 percent or more of 55- to 64-year-olds who had completed high school: Poland, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, the Slovak Republic, and the Czech Republic.


Table 2. Percentage of the population with a bachelor's or higher degree in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, by age group: 2012

OECD country 25 to 34 years old 55 to 64 years old Difference
   OECD average 30 17 13
Korea, Republic of 40 11 29
Poland 41 13 28
Finland 39 15 24
Luxembourg 36 17 19
Ireland 33 15 19
United Kingdom 40 22 18
Norway 44 27 18
Portugal 28 11 17
Japan 35 19 16
Iceland 36 20 15
Czech Republic 28 13 15
Sweden 34 19 15
Netherlands 40 25 15
New Zealand 33 18 15
France 27 13 14
Australia 37 23 14
Hungary 29 15 14
Slovenia 22 8 14
Slovak Republic 26 12 13
Belgium 25 12 13
Switzerland 32 19 12
Spain 27 15 12
Denmark 35 24 11
Mexico 23 12 11
Italy 22 11 11
Turkey 21 10 11
Austria 18 8 10
Canada 32 22 9
Chile 16 9 7
Greece 21 15 6
Germany 19 15 4
Estonia 27 23 3
United States 34 31 3
Israel 33 30 2

▲ The percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a bachelor's or higher degree is higher than the percentage of 55- to 64-year-olds with a bachelor's or higher degree.
◇ The percentages of 25- to 34-year-olds and 55- to 64-year-olds with a bachelor's or higher degree are not significantly different.
NOTE: Educational attainment data in this table refer to degrees classified by the OECD as International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 5A or 6 for bachelor's or higher degrees. The OECD average refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting OECD countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. Calculations based on unrounded data.
SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Education at a Glance, 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 603.20.


The same general pattern of higher percentages of the youngest age groups attaining higher levels of education also applied to bachelor's or higher degrees in 2012. In all OECD countries, except Estonia, a significantly higher percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds than of 55- to 64-year-olds had a bachelor's or higher degree in 2012. On average, 30 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds had a bachelor's or higher degree in 2012, compared with 17 percent of 55 to 64-year-olds. In the United States, 34 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds and 31 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds had a bachelor's or higher degree. The United States and Israel had the highest percentages of 55- to 64-year-olds with a bachelor's or higher degree in 2012.


Table 3. Percentage of the population 25 to 64 years old that had completed high school in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries: 2001 and 2012

OECD country 2001 2012 Difference
   OECD average 64 76 12
Poland 46 90 44
Luxembourg 53 78 26
Portugal 20 38 18
Australia 59 76 18
Greece 51 68 17
Ireland 58 75 17
Mexico 22 37 16
United Kingdom2 63 78 15
Spain 40 55 15
Korea, Republic of 68 82 14
Iceland 57 71 14
Italy 43 57 14
Belgium1 59 72 13
Hungary 70 82 12
Finland 74 85 11
Turkey 24 34 10
France2 64 73 9
Netherlands1,2 65 73 8
Austria1 76 83 7
Canada 82 89 7
Sweden 81 88 7
Slovak Republic 85 92 7
Czech Republic 86 92 6
Germany 83 86 4
United States 88 89 2
Switzerland 87 86 -1
New Zealand 76 74 -2
Denmark 80 78 -2
Norway1 85 82 -3
Japan 83
Estonia 90
Slovenia 85
Israel 85
Chile

▲ The 2012 percentage is higher than the 2001 percentage.
▼ The 2012 percentage is lower than the 2001 percentage.
— Not available.
1 Data in 2001 column include some short secondary (ISCED 3C) programs.
2 Data from 2000 reported for 2001.
NOTE: Educational attainment data in this table refer to degrees classified as International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 3. ISCED level 3 corresponds to high school completion in the United States. ISCED 3C short programs do not correspond to high school completion; these short programs are excluded from this table except where noted. The OECD average refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting OECD countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. Calculations based on unrounded data.
SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Education at a Glance, 2002 and 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 603.10.


The percentage of 25- to 64-year-olds who had completed a high school education was higher in 2012 than in 2001 in each OECD country, with the exceptions of Switzerland, New Zealand, Denmark, and Norway, where high school completion rates in 2012 were between 1 and 3 percentage points lower than they were in 20013. The OECD average percentage of the adult population completing a high school education increased by 12 percentage points, from 64 percent in 2001 to 76 percent in 2012. The percentage of adults in the United States who had completed high school increased from 88 to 89 percent during this period.

The OECD percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a high school education was 9 percentage points higher in 2012 than in 2001, while the percentage of U.S. young adults was 1 percentage point higher.


Table 4. Percentage of the population 25 to 64 years old with a bachelor's or higher degree in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries: 2001 and 2012

OECD country 2001 2012 Difference
   OECD average 15 24 8
Luxembourg 11 26 15
United Kingdom 18 31 13
Poland1 12 25 13
Iceland 19 31 12
Portugal2 7 19 12
Finland 15 26 11
New Zealand 14 25 11
Korea, Republic of 17 28 11
Ireland 14 25 11
Netherlands 21 32 11
Australia 19 30 11
Switzerland 16 26 10
Sweden 17 27 10
Norway 28 36 9
Czech Republic1 11 19 8
Denmark 22 29 8
Canada 20 28 7
Slovak Republic 10 18 7
Hungary3 14 21 7
Japan 19 26 7
France 12 19 7
Turkey1 9 15 6
Austria 7 13 6
Spain 17 23 6
Belgium 13 18 6
Greece 12 18 5
Italy3 10 15 5
United States 28 33 4
Mexico 13 17 4
Germany 13 17 4
Chile4 9 12
Israel 33
Estonia 25
Slovenia 15

▲ The 2012 percentage is higher than the 2001 percentage.
— Not available.
1 Data include vocational degrees.
2 Data for 2012 include vocational degrees.
3 Data for 2001 include vocational degrees.
4 Data from 2000 reported for 2001. Data from 2011 reported for 2012.
NOTE: Educational attainment data in this table refer to degrees classified by the OECD as International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 5A or 6 for bachelor's or higher degrees. The OECD average refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting OECD countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. Calculations based on unrounded data.
SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Education at a Glance, 2002 and 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 603.30.


All countries with data reported that the percentages of 25- to 64-year-olds who had completed a bachelor's or higher degree were higher in 2012 than they were in 2001. The OECD average percentage of the adult population with a bachelor's or higher degree increased by 8 percentage points between 2001 and 2012, from 15 to 24 percent. During the same period, the percentage of U.S. adults with a bachelor's or higher degree increased from 28 to 33 percent.

For 25- to 34-year-olds, the OECD average percentage with a bachelor's or higher degree rose from 18 percent in 2001 to 30 percent in 2012, an increase of 12 percentage points. The comparable percentage for young adults in the United States increased by 4 percentage points, from 30 to 34 percent. As a result of the relatively larger increases in bachelor's or higher degree attainment among young adult populations in several other OECD countries, the gap in attainment at this level of education between the U.S. and the OECD average percentages decreased between 2001 and 2012. In 2001, the rate of attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree among 25- to 34-year-olds in the United States was 12 percentage points higher than the OECD average; by 2012, this difference had decreased to 4 percentage points.


1 In 2012, Chile and Japan did not report data on high school completion rates.
2 Attainment data in this indicator refer to comparable levels of degrees, as classified by the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED).
3 In 2001, Estonia, Slovenia, Israel, and Chile did not report data on high school completion rates. In 2012, Chile and Japan did not report data on high school completion rates.


Glossary terms: Bachelor's degree, Educational attainment, High school completer, International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
Data Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)


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