Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2006. Employment and Work-related Risk Factor 4. Educational Attainment

08/30/2006

Figure WORK 4. Percentage of Adults Ages 25 and over, by Level of Educational Attainment: 1960-2004

Figure WORK 4. Percentage of Adults Ages 25 and over, by Level of Educational Attainment: 1960-2004

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, “Educational Attainment in the United States, 2005,” Current Population Reports, P20-550, and earlier reports.


  • There has been a notable decline over the past 40 years in the percentage of the population that has not received a high school education. This percentage fell from 59 percent in 1960 to 15 percent in 2004.
  • The percentage of the population receiving a high school education only (with no subsequent college education) was 25 percent in 1960 and rose to 39 percent in 1988. Since then this figure has fallen to 32 percent in 2004, although some of this decline is a result of a change in the survey methodology in 1992 (see note to Table WORK 4).
  • Between 1960 and 1990, the percentage of the population with some college (one to three years) doubled, from 9 percent to 18 percent. The apparent jump in 1992 is a result of a change in the survey methodology (see note to Table WORK 4), but the trend continued upward, reaching 25 percent in 2004.
  • The percentage of the population completing four or more years of college has more than tripled from 1960 to 2004, rising steadily from 8 percent to 28 percent.

Table WORK 4. Percentage of Adults Ages 25 and over, by Level of Educational Attainment Selected Years

  Not a High School Graduate Finished High School, No College One to Three Years of College Four or More Years of College
1940 76 14 5 5
1950 67 20 7 6
1960 59 25 9 8
1965 51 31 9 9
1970 45 34 10 11
1975 37 36 12 14
1980 31 37 15 17
1981 30 38 15 17
1982 29 38 15 18
1983 28 38 16 19
1984 27 38 16 19
1985 26 38 16 19
1986 25 38 17 19
1987 24 39 17 20
1988 24 39 17 20
1989 23 38 17 21
1990 22 38 18 21
1991 22 39 18 21
1992 21 36 22 21
1993 20 35 23 22
1994 19 34 24 22
1995 18 34 25 23
1996 18 34 25 24
1997 18 34 24 24
1998 17 34 25 24
1999 17 33 25 25
2000 16 33 25 26
2001 16 33 26 26
2002 16 32 25 27
2003 15 32 25 27
2004 15 32 25 28

Note: Completing the GED is not considered completing high school for this table. Beginning with data for 1992, a new survey question results in different categories than for prior years. Data shown as Finished High School, No College were previously from the category “High School, 4 Years” and are now from the category “High School Graduate.” Data shown as One to Three Years of College were previously from the category “College 1 to 3 Years” and are now the sum of the categories: “Some College” and two separate “Associate Degree” categories. Data shown as Four or More Years of College were previously from the category “College 4 Years or More,” and are now the sum of the categories: “Bachelor's Degree,” “Master's Degree,” “Doctorate Degree,” and “Professional Degree.”

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, “Educational Attainment in the United States: 2003,” http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/educ-attn.html and earlier reports.

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