US Census: Americans are More Educated than Ever Before


29 August, 2018

The United States Census Bureau is reporting two major developments involving education.

For the first time in history, 90 percent of Americans over 25 years of age have finished high school. In addition, more than one-third of Americans over the age of 25 have a college degree or higher.

That is a big change from 1940. At that time, a Census Bureau study found that less than 25 percent of the U.S. population had completed at least four years of high school. It also found that just 4.6 percent had earned a four-year bachelor's degree or taken additional classes after completing a study program at a college or university.

FILE - Graduates throw their mortarboards into the air in celebration after receiving their diplomas, following the commencement ceremony at Boulder High School, in Boulder, Colo. on Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
FILE - Graduates throw their mortarboards into the air in celebration after receiving their diplomas, following the commencement ceremony at Boulder High School, in Boulder, Colo. on Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Born inside the U.S. vs outside

The new study found that, in 2017, 54 percent of Americans who did not complete high school were born outside the United States. The numbers are even higher among Hispanic men and women. Seventy-six percent of Hispanics born overseas did not have a high school degree.

Higher percentages of foreign-born people from all race and ethnic groups have not finished high school. Yet nearly the same amount of foreign-born Americans as people born in the United States have a college education.

Thirty-four percent of U.S.-born Americans have a four-year college degree. That rate is similar to the 33 percent of those born in other countries.

Recession and school

The value of a high school degree has changed a lot since the 1940s. Today, a high school education is often required for workers in the U.S. job market.

The Census Bureau information showed that the 2007 to 2009 recession led more Americans to go to college.

During the recession, there was a 33 percent increase in students registering at two-year colleges. Those new students may have decided to return to school to improve their skills or learn new ones during a time when labor market conditions were worsening.

Twenty-nine percent of all students were registered at two-year colleges in 2010, but that number had dropped to 25 percent in 2015.

As the labor market improved, fewer Americans left their jobs to go to college. However, the number of students registered at two-year colleges was still 10 percent higher in 2015 than in 2006.

The Census Bureau found that people can earn more money if they go to college. In 2016, people with high school degrees earned an average of $35,615 per year. Those with a four-year college degree earned $65,482, and people with advanced degrees took home an average of $92,525.

There is still a big difference between men and women. Men with a college degree earned an average of $79,927 in 2016. Women with the same level of education were paid an average of $50,856.

I'm Phil Dierking.

Dora Mekouar reported this story for VOANews. Phil Dierking adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

How well does a college or high school degree affect pay in your country? Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.

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Words in This Story

degree - n. an official document and title that is given to someone who has successfully completed a series of classes at a college or university

bachelor - n. a person who has received a bachelor's degree

hispanic - n. coming originally from an area where Spanish is spoken and especially from Latin America