Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
NCES 2007-039
September 2007

Indicator 26: Educational Attainment

Educational attainment is one indicator of an adult's quality of life, and contributes to future earnings and employment opportunities. The percentage of adults ages 25 and over who have completed a bachelor's degree has increased since 1990, but differences in levels of educational attainment among racial/ethnic groups remain.

The proportion of adults ages 25 and over with at least a high school education increased from 1990 to 2005 for all racial/ethnic groups shown. However, the proportions varied by racial/ethnic group. In 1990, a smaller percentage of Hispanics (51 percent), Blacks (66 percent), and American Indians/Alaska Natives (66 percent) than Whites (81 percent) and Asians/Pacific Islanders (80 percent) had completed high school or more education. The gap between the percentages of Black and White adults who have completed high school or higher education narrowed from 15 to 9 percentage points between 1990 and 2005. The percentage of Hispanics who had completed high school or higher education also increased between 1990 and 2005 (from 51 percent to 58 percent). However, Hispanics, unlike Blacks, have not made progress in closing the high school completion gap with Whites. In 2005, the gap between Hispanics and Whites was 32 percentage points, compared with the 31 percentage point gap in 1990.

Between 1990 and 2005, the percentage of adults who completed at least a bachelor's degree increased for all racial/ethnic groups shown. During this period, the percentage of Blacks and Whites who completed a graduate degree such as a master's, a doctorate, or a first-professional degree also increased. The percentages of adults of other races/ethnicities with graduate degrees were not measurably different in 2005 than in 1990.

View Table View Table 26.1

In 2005, Asians/Pacific Islanders had the largest percentage of adults with at least a bachelor's degree (49 percent), followed by Whites (31 percent) and Blacks (18 percent), both of whom had higher percentages than American Indians/Alaska Natives (14 percent) and Hispanics (12 percent). Asians/Pacific Islanders also had the highest percentage of graduate-degree completers (17 percent), again followed by Whites (11 percent). Some 5 percent of Blacks and 4 percent of both American Indians/Alaska Natives and Hispanics had a graduate degree in 2005.

View Table View Figure 26.1

Snapshot of Hispanic and Asian Subgroups: Educational Attainment

In 2005, some 11 percent of all Hispanic young adults (ages 25 to 29) had completed at least a college degree, a lower percentage than the 28 percent of all young adults in the United States who had completed at least a college degree.30 Differences emerge in educational attainment across Hispanic subgroups. South Americans had the highest percentage of college completers (31 percent), followed by those of other Hispanic or Latino descent (including Cubans and Spaniards) (20 percent), Dominicans (18 percent), and Puerto Ricans (16 percent). Mexicans (8 percent) and Central Americans (9 percent) had the lowest percentages of college completers.

In contrast, 61 percent of 25- to 29-year-old Asians in the United States had completed college in 2005, a higher percentage than in the United States overall. Among Asian subgroups, Asian Indians (80 percent) had the highest percentage of college completers. A higher percentage of Chinese (71 percent) completed college than all other Asian subgroups with the exception of Asian Indians and Koreans. The percentages of Koreans (67 percent) and Japanese (57 percent) who had completed college were not measurably different from the overall Asian percentage. The Other Asian subgroup (including Cambodian, Hmong, and other groups) had a lower percentage of college completers (44 percent) than Asians overall, as did Vietnamese (38 percent). The percentage of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders who had completed college (13 percent) was lower than the percentages for all Asian subgroups and lower than the U.S. average.

View Table View Table 26.2


30 Please note that, in order to present estimates on racial/ethnic subgroups, this snapshot uses data from the American Community Survey, while the rest of the tables in indicator 26 use Current Population Survey data. For this reason, 2005 estimates presented here are not directly comparable to those in the rest of the indicator.