Young Americans Earning Four-Year Degrees, Graduating High School in Record Numbers

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GraduationMore young adults than ever are graduating from high school, attending college and obtaining bachelor’s degrees, says the Pew Research Center

According to recent Pew data, more than a third of young Americans -- ages 25 to 29 -- have obtained at least undergraduate degrees, while almost two-thirds have completed at least some college courses. An estimated 90 percent of the nation’s young adults have completed high school, representing a 12 percent increase since 1978.

Researchers state that about 33 percent of the nation’s total young adult population has completed four-year college degrees, with 37 percent of young women and 30 percent of young men obtaining at least bachelor’s degrees. The 2012 estimates indicate a marked increase over data from 1971, when just 20 percent of the young male population -- and only 14 percent of young females -- had obtained undergraduate diplomas.

The data indicates drastic increases in the obtainment of undergraduate degrees across all racial demographics, with the total number of young African-Americans in the nation with at least a bachelor’s degree rising from 7 percent in 1971 to 23 percent this year. Over the last four decades, the number of Hispanics with at least undergraduate degrees leapt from 5 percent to 15 percent, while the number of Caucasian young adults with at least bachelor’s degrees doubled from 20 to 40 percent. In the last quarter century, the percentage of Asian young adults with at least undergraduate degrees rose from 44 percent in the late 1980s to almost two-thirds in 2012. 

Researchers say that prevailing attitudes about the significance of a college education is much different than in decades past. While less than half of the public believed that college education was essential in 1978, 73 percent of adults stated that higher education was necessary in a Pew Research Center survey from 2009 garnered similar results, with three-quarters of respondents stating that college education was “very important” -- a massive increase from 1978, when only 36 percent of American adults considered higher education to be essential.

Photo by Sakeeb Sabakka via Fotopedia.