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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 (defined here as a high school diploma or equivalency certificate, an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree, or a master's or higher degree). Between 2000 and 2017, educational attainment rates among 25- to 29-year-olds increased at each attainment level. During this time, the percentage who had received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent increased from 88 to 92 percent, the percentage with an associate's or higher degree increased from 38 to 46 percent, the percentage with a bachelor's or higher degree increased from 29 to 36 percent, and the percentage with a master's or higher degree increased from 5 to 9 percent.

Between 2000 and 2017, attainment rates increased for both female and male 25- to 29-year-olds across all education levels. Attainment rates for 25- to 29-year-olds were generally higher for females than for males during this period. Between 2000 and 2017, 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) did not vary measurably at the high school completion or higher and master's or higher degree attainment levels; however, the gender gap did widen at the associate's or higher degree and bachelor's or higher degree attainment levels. Among 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed an associate's or higher degree, the gender gap widened from 5 percentage points in 2000 to 10 percentage points in 2017. Similarly, among 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed a bachelor's or higher degree, the gender gap widened from 2 percentage points in 2000 to 7 percentage points in 2017.

Between 2000 and 2017, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent increased for those who were White (from 94 to 96 percent), Black (from 87 to 92 percent), and Hispanic (from 63 to 83 percent). However, the percentages of Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native 25- to 29-year-olds with at least a high school diploma or its equivalent in 2017 (96 percent and 85 percent, respectively) were not measurably different from the corresponding percentages in 2000. In addition, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds of Two or more races who had received a high school diploma or its equivalent in 2017 (95 percent) was not measurably different from the percentage who had attained this education level in 2003, the first year for which data on persons of Two or more races were available.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). The Condition of Education 2018 (NCES 2018-144), Educational Attainment of Young Adults.

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