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Educational attainment

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

Response:

Educational attainment refers to the highest level of education completed (reported here as high school completion or higher,1 an associateís or higher degree, a bachelorís or higher degree, or a masterís or higher degree). Between 2000 and 2018, educational attainment rates among 25- to 29-year-olds increased at each attainment level. During this time, the percentage with high school completion or higher increased from 88 to 93 percent, the percentage with an associateís or higher degree increased from 38 to 47 percent, the percentage with a bachelorís or higher degree increased from 29 to 37 percent, and the percentage with a masterís or higher degree increased from 5 to 9 percent.

Between 2000 and 2018, attainment rates increased for both female and male 25- to 29-year-olds across all education levels. During this period, attainment rates for 25- to 29-year-olds were generally higher for females than for males, and the difference between the attainment rates for 25- to 29-year-old females and males (also referred to in this Fast Fact as the gender gap) widened at all attainment levels, except for the high school completion or higher level. For example, the gender gap in the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained a bachelorís or higher degree widened from 2 percentage points in 2000 to 8 percentage points in 2018. Similarly, at the masterís or higher degree level, the gender gap widened from 1 percentage point in 2000 to 3 percentage points in 2018. However, the gender gap at the high school completion or higher level showed no measurable change between 2000 and 2018.

In 2018, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds with high school completion or higher was higher for those who were Asian (97 percent) and White (96 percent) than for those who were Black (92 percent) and Hispanic (85 percent). Between 2000 and 2018, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds with high school completion or higher increased for those who were White (from 94 to 96 percent), Black (from 87 to 92 percent), and Hispanic (from 63 to 85 percent). The percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native 25- to 29-year-olds with high school completion or higher in 2018 (89 percent) was not measurably different from the percentage in 2000. Similarly, the percentages of 25- to 29-year-olds who were Asian (97 percent), of Two or more races (93 percent), and Pacific Islander (91 percent) with high school completion or higher in 2018 were not measurably different from the corresponding percentages in 2003, the first year for which separate data on these three racial groups were available.


1 High school completion includes those who graduated from high school with a diploma as well as those who completed high school through equivalency programs, such as a GED program.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). The Condition of Education 2019 (NCES 2019-144), Educational Attainment of Young Adults.

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