Release Number: CB17-208

For the first time in U.S. history, 90 percent of the population age 25 and older have completed high school. This is according to new Educational Attainment data released today from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“In 1940, less than half of the population age 25 and older had a high school diploma. Over the years this has increased to the point where we now have 90 percent who have completed high school,” said Kurt Bauman, a demographer in the Social, Economic and Housing Statistics division. “That means out of the 217 million people age 25 and older, 194 million have a high school diploma or higher.”

Between 2000 and 2017, the percentage of all people age 25 and older who had not completed high school decreased by more than one-third, dropping from 16 percent to 10 percent.

As high school educational attainment increased for the nation as a whole, attainment for minority populations also increased. Over the same time period, the percentage of blacks age 25 and older who had completed high school increased by 9 percentage points from 78 percent to 87 percent. The percentage of Hispanics age 25 and older who had completed high school increased by approximately 13 percentage points from 57 percent to 71 percent in the same time period. Non-Hispanic whites increased their high school completion 6 percentage points, from 88 percent to 94 percent.

Additionally, the increase in educational attainment goes beyond high school. The rate of attainment for a bachelor’s degree or higher increased from about 26 percent in 2000 to approximately 34 percent in 2017, an increase of 9 percentage points. Attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher was greater for females age 25 and older (35 percent) than it was for males (34 percent). Of females between the ages of 25 and 34, 41 percent had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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High School Completion Rate Is Highest in U.S. History