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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Population Characteristics and Economic Outcomes

Educational Attainment of Young Adults

Last Updated: May 2021
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Between 2010 and 2020, the percentage of Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed at least high school increased by 20 percentage points from 69 percent to 90 percent. The gap in educational attainment rates between White and Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds narrowed for those who had completed at least high school and who were at the levels of an associate’s or higher degree and a bachelor’s or higher degree.

Educational attainment refers to the highest level of education completed by the time of the survey (reported here as high school completion or higher,1 an associate’s or higher degree, a bachelor’s or higher degree, or a master’s or higher degree). Between 2010 and 2020,2 educational attainment rates among 25- to 29-year-olds increased at each attainment level. During this period, the percentage who had completed at least high school increased from 89 to 95 percent, the percentage with an associate’s or higher degree increased from 41 to 50 percent, the percentage with a bachelor’s or higher degree increased from 32 to 39 percent, and the percentage with a master’s or higher degree increased from 7 to 9 percent.

Select a subgroup characteristic from drop-down menu below to view relevant text and figures.

Figure 1. Percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds, by educational attainment and sex: 2010 and 2020
Figure 1. Percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds, by educational attainment and sex: 2010 and 2020

NOTE: Data were collected in March of each year and are based on sample surveys of the noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities); data include military personnel who live in households with civilians, but exclude those who live in military barracks. 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. Caution should be used when comparing 2020 estimates to those of prior years due to the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on interviewing and response rates in 2020. For additional information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Current Population Survey data collection, please see https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/techdocs/cpsmar20.pdf. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2010 and 2020. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 104.20.

Between 2010 and 2020, educational attainment rates increased for both female and male 25- to 29-year-olds across all attainment levels. During this period, attainment rates were generally higher for females than for males. However, in 2020, the attainment rates for females and males were not measurably different for those who had completed at least high school. [Time series ] [Sex]
Differences between the attainment rates for females and males (also referred to in this indicator as the gender gap) were also observed by race/ethnicity3 in 2020. The White gender gap was 12 percentage points at the associate’s or higher degree level, 11 percentage points at the bachelor’s or higher degree level, and 7 percentage points at the master’s or higher degree level. The Black gender gap was 14 percentage points at the associate’s or higher degree level, 10 percentage points at the bachelor’s or higher degree level, and 4 percentage points at the master’s or higher degree level. Additionally, a gender gap was observed for Hispanic students at the associate’s or higher degree level (6 percentage points) and for students of Two or more races at the associate’s or higher degree (17 percentage points) and bachelor’s or higher degree levels (20 percentage points). However, there was no measurable gender gap at any attainment level in 2020 for either those who were Asian or those who were American Indian/Alaska Native.4 There were also no gender gaps for any racial/ethnic group in the percentage who had completed at least high school. [Sex]
Figure 2. Percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed high school or a higher degree, by race/ethnicity and educational attainment: 2010 and 2020
Figure 2. Percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed high school or a higher degree, by race/ethnicity and educational attainment: 2010 and 2020

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.

NOTE: Data were collected in March of each year and are based on sample surveys of the noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities); data include military personnel who live in households with civilians, but exclude those who live in military barracks. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. 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. Caution should be used when comparing 2020 estimates to those of prior years due to the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on interviewing and response rates in 2020. For additional information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Current Population Survey data collection, please see https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/techdocs/cpsmar20.pdf. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2010 and 2020. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 104.20.

In 2020, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed at least high school was lower for those who were Hispanic (90 percent) than for those who were American Indian/Alaska Native (95 percent), Black (95 percent), White (96 percent), and Asian (97 percent). Despite the fact there were no differences between any other racial/ethnic groups in the percentages of 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed at least high school in 2020, different patterns of degree attainment beyond the high school level exist (see Figure 3 on associate’s or higher degree attainment for discussion). [Other]
Between 2010 and 2020, the percentages who had completed at least high school increased for those who were Asian (from 94 to 97 percent), White (from 95 to 96 percent), Black (from 90 to 95 percent), and Hispanic (from 69 to 90 percent). The percentages who were of Two or more races (93 percent), Pacific Islander (93 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (95 percent) who had completed at least high school in 2020 were not measurably different from the corresponding percentages who had completed at least high school in 2010. [Time series ]
Between 2010 and 2020, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed at least high school generally remained higher for those who were White than for those who were Black and Hispanic. However, both the White-Black and White-Hispanic high school completion gaps were narrower in 2020 than in 2010. In 2010, the percentage of those who had completed at least high school who were White was 5 percentage points higher than the percentage who were Black, while in 2020 there was no measurable difference in high school completion between White and Black 25- to 29-year-olds. Over the same period, the White-Hispanic attainment gap for those who had completed at least high school narrowed from 25 to 7 percentage points between 2010 and 2020, primarily due to the increase in the percentage of those who had completed at least high school who were Hispanic. [Time series ]
Figure 3. Percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed an associate’s or higher degree, by race/ethnicity and educational attainment: 2010 and 2020
Figure 3. Percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed an associate’s or higher degree, by race/ethnicity and educational attainment: 2010 and 2020

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.

NOTE: Data were collected in March of each year and are based on sample surveys of the noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities); data include military personnel who live in households with civilians, but exclude those who live in military barracks. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Caution should be used when comparing 2020 estimates to those of prior years due to the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on interviewing and response rates in 2020. For additional information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Current Population Survey data collection, please see https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/techdocs/cpsmar20.pdf. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2010 and 2020. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 104.20.

The percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who attained an associate’s or higher degree was higher for those who were Asian (77 percent) than for those of any other racial/ethnic group in 2020. In addition, the percentage was higher for those who were White (56 percent) than for those who were of Two or more races (37 percent), Hispanic (37 percent), Black (36 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (33 percent). The percentages who had attained an associate’s or higher degree increased from 2010 to 2020 for those who were Asian (from 63 to 77 percent), White (from 49 to 56 percent), Hispanic (from 20 to 37 percent), and Black (from 29 to 36 percent). The percentages of those who had attained an associate’s or higher degree in 2020 who were American Indian/Alaska Native (33 percent), of Two or more races (37 percent), and Pacific Islander (47 percent) were not measurably different from the corresponding percentages who had attained an associate’s or higher degree in 2010. [Time series ]
The gap between the percentages of White and Black 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained an associate’s or higher degree in 2020 (20 percentage points) was not measurably different from the corresponding percentage gap in 2010, while the gap between the percentages of those who had attained an associate’s or higher degree who were White and Hispanic narrowed over this period (from 28 to 20 percentage points). [Time series ]
The percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained a bachelor’s or higher degree in 2020 was higher for those who were Asian (72 percent) than for those of any other racial/ethnic group. The percentage was also higher for those who were White (45 percent) than for those who were of Two or more races (31 percent), Black (28 percent), Hispanic (25 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (11 percent). The percentage was lower for those who were American Indian/Alaska Native than for those who were Hispanic, Black, and of Two or more races. The percentages of individuals at the bachelor’s or higher degree level increased between 2010 and 2020 for those who were Asian (from 56 to 72 percent), White (from 39 to 45 percent), Black (from 19 to 28 percent), and Hispanic (from 13 to 25 percent). The percentages of those who were American Indian/Alaska Native (11 percent), Pacific Islander (30 percent), and of Two or more races (31 percent) who had attained a bachelor’s or higher degree in 2020 were not measurably different from the corresponding percentages who had attained a bachelor’s or higher degree in 2010. [Time series ]
The gap between the percentages of White and Black 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained a bachelor’s or higher degree in 2020 (17 percentage points) was not measurably different from the corresponding gap in 2010, while the gap between the percentages of White and Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds narrowed over this period (from 25 to 20 percentage points). [Time series ]
The percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who attained a master’s or higher degree was higher for those who were Asian (28 percent) than for those of any other racial/ethnic group in 2020.5 In addition, the percentage was higher for those who were White (10 percent) than for those who were Hispanic (5 percent) and Black (5 percent). From 2010 to 2020, the percentages who had attained a master’s or higher degree increased for those who were Asian (from 19 to 28 percent), White (from 8 to 10 percent), and Hispanic (from 2 to 5 percent). The percentages of those who were Black (5 percent) and of Two or more races (8 percent) who had attained a master’s or higher degree in 2020 were not measurably different from the corresponding percentages who had attained a master’s or higher degree in 2010. [Time series ]
The gap between White and Black 25- to 29-year-olds attaining a master’s or higher degree was 5 percentage points in 2020, and this gap was not measurably different from that in 2010. The percentage gap between those who had attained a master’s or higher degree who were White and Hispanic was also 5 percent in 2020 and not measurably different from the gap in 2010. [Time series ]

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.

2 Caution should be used when comparing 2020 estimates to those of prior years due to the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on interviewing and response rates in 2020. For additional information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Current Population Survey data collection, please see https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/techdocs/cpsmar20.pdf.

3 Pacific Islander 25- to 29-year-olds are not included in this comparison because sample sizes in 2020 were too small to provide reliable estimates.

4 American Indian/Alaska Native 25- to 29-year-olds who attained a bachelor’s or higher degree and who attained a master’s or higher degree are not included in this comparison because sample sizes in 2020 were too small to provide reliable estimates.

5 Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native 25- to 29-year-olds who attained a master’s or higher degree are not included in this comparison because the sample sizes in 2020 were too small to provide reliable estimates.

Supplemental Information

Disability Rates and Employment Status by Educational Attainment [The Condition of Education 2017 Spotlight]
Educational Attainment [Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups]
Snapshot: Attainment of a Bachelor's or Higher Degree for Racial/Ethnic Subgroups [Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups]
Trends in Employment Rates by Educational Attainment [The Condition of Education 2013 Spotlight]
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Table 104.20 (Digest 2020): Percentage of persons 25 to 29 years old with selected levels of educational attainment, by race/ethnicity and sex: Selected years, 1920 through 2020
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Suggested Citation

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Educational Attainment of Young Adults. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/caa.