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Robert Longley

Education Nation: 30 Percent Now Hold Degrees

By February 28, 2012

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College GraduateThomas 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.

Also See: College Degree Nearly Doubles Annual Earnings

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.

Also See: Education Greatly Boosts Women's Earnings

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.

Also See:
Why Women Still Make Less than Men
Lifetime Earnings Soar with Education

Comments

February 28, 2012 at 9:57 pm
(1) Lisa Ransdell says:

This is a true milestone, and indeed something to be celebrated. Particularly, the solid arrival of women and minorities among the ranks of the college educated is a mark of progress. However, this benchmark also obscures some hidden debates.

Among those debates are questions regarding the cost of higher education, the differential in pay outcomes between males and females and whites and people of color, and the proper goal to set for the number of Americans who should be college educated by mid-century.

Let’s laud the progress represented by the new numbers, but not avoid posing the challenging questions about what all of this is leading to: genuine progress, or mere credentialism?

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