Education Attainment Statistics

Last Updated: July 10, 2021 by Melanie Hanson

For our purposes, educational attainment refers to the highest completed level of education. A high school graduate or equivalent (ex., GED) with college credits but no degree is counted among high school graduates in the data below.

Report Highlights:

  • 94% of Americans have a high school diploma, while 49% have an associate’s degree and 39% have a bachelor’s degree.
  • Educational attainment among 25- to 29-year-olds in the United States has risen at every level by as much as 80% since 2000.
  • The 9% of Americans who earn a master’s degree or higher increase their employability by less than 3%.
  • Educational success directly correlates with success in marriage and homeownership.
  • Gender* gaps continue to widen in unexpected ways while racial disparities slowly shrink.

*Official sources report data divided into two sex-based categories: male and female. Additional categorical data is unavailable, and the terms “sex” and “gender” are used interchangeably.

High School Diploma or Equivalent

The gender gap among high school graduates has stagnated in recent years. In 2019, among high school graduates, the male-to-female ratio was almost 1-to-1.

  • Data indicates that 60% of 25- to 29-year-olds without a high school diploma or equivalent (such as a General Educational Development certification or GED) achieve that level of education after a few years away from school.
  • 86% of 18- to 24-year-old women and 83% of men have a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Among these, 69% of the women and 60% of the men go on to higher education before the age of 24.

Some racial gaps among high school graduates decreased from 2000-2019. Attainment has improved across the board though disparities remain.

  • While Latino/Hispanic attrition increased by 36.5%, this demographic has yet to attain in the 90th percentile.
  • There were also significant increases in attainment among American Indian/Alaska Native and Pacific Islander demographics, which improved by 20% and 18%, respectively.

About half of high school-level attainers over the age of 25 work in the civilian job force. Their top occupations are service, office and administrative, and transportation and logistics positions. Wholesale retail and trade, education and health, and manufacturing are the industries that employ the largest percentage of this demographic.

  • 4% were unemployed
  • 42% were not employed in the civilian labor force.
  • 55% were employed as civilians.

In 2019, about half of Americans with a high school attainment level were married. Roughly half owned their own homes, with mortgages averaging $50,000 apiece.

  • 54% were married
  • 22% had never married
  • 15% were divorced or separated
  • 9% were widowed

Associate’s Degree

The gender gap among those with Associate’s degrees has increased slightly, from 14% to 18%.

  • In 2019, among Associate’s degree earners:
    • 44% were men.
    • 56% were women.
  • Among 18- to -24-year-olds:
    • Associate’s degree earners accounted for:
      • 6% of the male population.
      • 7% of the female population.
    • Associate’s degree earners were:
      • 45% male.
      • 55% female.

In every racial category, more people are entering post-secondary education. Patterns in race distribution at this level are similar to those at the high school level. Many disparities have either remained level or decreased; think tanks and education specialists attribute decreases to greater understanding of how racial bias in education can degrade student aptitude.

  • In the past 20 years, Latino/Hispanic attrition has increased by 107%.
  • In 2000, White students were almost three times (193%) more likely to earn an associate’s degree. than their Latino/Hispanic counterparts.
  • By 2019, this gap had narrowed significantly, though White students are still 81% more likely to graduate.
  • Similarly, White students’ attrition rate was 70% higher than Black students’ in 2000.
  • By 2019, White students’ graduation rate was down to 40% higher than their Black counterparts.

Unemployment is only 2% for Associate’s degree-holders. While service positions remain among the top three occupations, an Associate’s degree significantly increases the likelihood of holding a professional or management positon. The top three employing industries are education and health, wholesale retail and trade, and professional and business services.

  • 2% were unemployed.
  • 31% were not employed in the civilian labor force.
  • 67% were employed civilians.

In 2019, among those with Associate’s degrees as their highest level of educational attainment, over half were married. Almost 58% owned their own home.

  • 60% were married.
  • 19% had never married.
  • 15% were divorced or separated.
  • 6% were widowed.

Bachelor’s Degree

The gender gap among those with Bachelor’s degrees has more-than-doubled, increasing from 7% to 17%.

  • In 2019, among Bachelor’s degree earners:
    • 44% were men.
    • 56% were women.
  • Among 18- to -24-year-olds:
    • Bachelor’s degree earners accounted for:
      • 10% of the male population.
      • 13% of the female population.
    • Bachelor’s degree earners were:
      • 42% male.
      • 58% female.
    Bachelors degreesin25to29 on EducationDataRacial inequality is greater among those with Bachelor’s and higher degrees. Patterns in race distribution at this level are similar to those at lower levels, with Latino/Hispanic attrition up by 110%. The gap between Latino/Hispanic and White is still 114%; the gap between White and Black is 55%, shrinking from 89% in 2000.

    Bachelorsdegreeholdersbyrace on EducationData
    • In 2019, White 25- to 29-year-olds were 55% more likely than their Black counterparts to have Bachelor’s degrees or higher.
    • In 2000, however, the gap between these groups was closer to 89%.
    • Between Whites and Latino/Hispanics in this age group,
      • The 2019 gap was 114%, while
      • The 2000 gap was 240%.

    A Bachelor’s degree significantly increases the likelihood of working in management. In 2019, the top occupations among this demographic include sales and professional titles. Education and health is the top industry.

    • 2% were unemployed.
    • 27% were not employed in the civilian labor force.
    • 72% were employed as civilians.
    Edattain 3 on EducationDataEdattain2 3 on EducationData

    In 2019, among those with Bachelor’s degrees as their highest level of attainment:

    • 64% were married.
    • 21% had never married.
    • 11% were divorced or separated.
    • 4% were widowed.
    Cohabitation among home owning bachelors degree holders on EducationData

    Master’s Degree and Higher

    The gender gap among those with a Master’s degree or higher has widened in two ways.

    • In 2019, among advanced degree earners:
      • 47% were men.
      • 53% were women.
      • The gender gap favored women by 12%.
    Masters degreesin25to29 on EducationData
  • The gender gap increased from 20% to 38%, favoring women.
  • Among those over 25 years who held a Doctoral or Professional degree as of 2019:
    • 57% were men.
    • 33% were women.
    • The gender gap favored men by 73%.

Racial inequality is worst at the highest education levels. There are few statistics available regarding race and ethnic distribution at this level, so it is difficult to detect patterns.

  • Asians are 5 times more likely than Latino/Hispanics to hold an advanced degree.
  • Asian attainment is at least 92% higher than other races.
  • The gap between White and Black is 44%, which is the 2nd widest after the Bachelor level.

Master’s and Professional degree-holders have the lowest unemployment rates.

  • 1% were unemployed.
  • 25% were not employed in the civilian labor force.
  • 73% were employed as civilians.

Higher education seems to correlate with personal success.Professional and doctoral degree holders are also most likely to be married and own their own homes.

  • 71% were married.
  • 16% had never married.
  • 9% were divorced or separated.
  • 4% were widowed.


  1. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Fast Facts
  2. NCES, The Condition of Education, Educational Attainment of Young Adults
  3. United States Census Bureau, Educational Attainment
  4. Wikipedia, Educational Attainment in the United States
  5. iPropertyManagement, Homeownership Rate by Age
  6. MarketWatch, The Higher Your Degree the More Likely You Are to Buy a House