Thomas Jefferson, who considered an educated citizenry "a vital requisite for our survival as a free people," would be pleased to learn that by the end of March, 2011, and for the first time ever, 30% of adults aged 25 and older held at least a bachelor's degree, according to the Census Bureau.
According to the Census Bureau's report, Educational Attainment in the United States: 2011, as recently as 1998, fewer than 25% of Americans 25 and older had earned college degrees.
During the decade from 2001 to 2011, the number of Hispanics with a bachelor's or higher degree increased 80%, from 2.1 million in 2001 to 3.8 million in 2011. The increase among blacks was 47% and 24% among non-Hispanic whites.
Of the 61 million Americans 25 and over with bachelor's degrees in 2011, about 31 million were women and 30 million were men. The number of women 25 and over with bachelor's degrees increased by 37% since 2001, compared to 23% for men.
The number of women holding master's degrees increased 58% from 2001 to 2011, from 6.5 million in 2001 to 8.8 million in 2011. The number of men with master's degrees increased 33%, from 5.4 million to 7.2 million.
Men with doctorate degrees increased 24% in the last decade, from 1.5 million in 2001 to 1.9 million in 2011. The increase for women was 90%, from 0.6 million to 1.2 million in the 2001 to 2011 period.
Is It Worth It? According to Educational Attainment in the United States: 2011, the average income for people whose highest educational level was high school was $31,000 in 2010, compared to $58,000 for all persons with bachelor's degrees, $70,000 for men and $45,000 for women. The gender pay gap persists.