Skip Navigation

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 (e.g., a high school diploma or equivalency certificate, an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree, or a master's degree). Between 2000 and 2016, educational attainment rates among 25- to 29-year-olds increased. 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.

Since 2000, attainment rates among 25- to 29-year-olds have generally been higher for females than for males at each education level. Additionally, attainment rates have increased for both female and male 25- to 29-year-olds across all education levels. During this time period, there was no measurable change in the gender gap at the high school completion level, while the gender gaps have widened at the associate's and higher degree 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 2011, but has remained around 9 percentage points in every year since. 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 8 percentage points in 2009, but the gender gap has remained between 6 and 8 percentage points since 2009. Among 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed a master's or higher degree, the gender gap widened from 1 percentage point in 2000 to 4 percentage points in 2016.

Between 2000 and 2016, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed at least a high school diploma or its equivalent increased for those who were White (from 94 to 95 percent), Black (from 87 to 91 percent), Hispanic (from 63 to 81 percent), and Asian/Pacific Islander (from 94 to 97 percent). The percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native 25- to 29-year-olds with at least a high school diploma or its equivalent in 2016 (84 percent) was not measurably different from the percentage in 2000, and the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds of Two or more races who had attained this level of education in 2016 (95 percent) was not measurably different from the percentage 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. (2017). The Condition of Education 2017 (NCES 2017-144), Educational Attainment of Young Adults.

Related Tables and Figures:  (Listed by Release Date)

Other Resources:  (Listed by Release Date)