College & Workforce Readiness

Census: More Adults Earn a Diploma, More Women Earn a Degree

By Sarah D. Sparks — April 27, 2011 1 min read
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The U.S. Census Bureau has released the most detailed information to date about how far Americans get in the education system—and where the education pipeline begins to leak.

According to the new Educational Attainment in the United
States: 2010
, in spite of rising pressure for students to attend college, a high school diploma remains the most common end-point of American education. Of the 200 million Americans ages 25 and older in 2010, 87 percent had earned at least a high school diploma or an equivalent degree, up from 84 percent in 2000. Yet that left 26 million adults who never finished high school. Of those that did not complete high school, 1 percent reached 12th grade, 2 percent made it to 11th grade and another 2 percent left after completing a GED.

“The tabulations permit one to see not only the broad levels of educational attainment adults experienced, but also, for instance, if they did not receive a high school diploma, the specific level of schooling they did reach,” said Sonia Collazo, a Census Bureau demographer, in a statement on the data release.

The data tables are pretty dry, but there are some interesting nuggets in there. The data support the trend of women’s increasing academic careers. While slightly fewer adult women than men overall have earned at least bachelor’s degrees, 29.6 percent versus 30.3 percent, among workers the numbers switch, to 37 percent of female versus 35 percent of male workers holding at least a bachelor’s degree. That gender gap becomes even starker when you look at younger adults: 36 percent of women ages 25 to 29 held a bachelor’s degree or better, versus only 28 percent of men in the same age group.

The Census Bureau gathered the data across about 100,000 households nationwide as part of its annual spring social and economic supplement to the Current Population Survey.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.