Post-high school education attainment rises, yet disparities remain

Post-high school education attainment rises, yet disparities remain

Although the attainment of quality post-high school credentials is increasing among all races in the United States, large racial disparities persist, a report from the Lumina Foundation finds.

The report, A Stronger Nation (10 pages, PDF), found that 51.3 percent of U.S. adults between the ages of 25 and 64 hold a post-high-school credential such as an associate's or bachelor's degree, a college certificate, or an industry-recognized certification, up from 37.9 percent in 2008. The increase is due in part to the addition of industry-recognized certifications in the report for the first time, as well as the increase in the number of adults who now hold such a credential. However, while educational attainment among American adults overall is increasing, large discrepancies between races persist. For example, the average attainment rate for an associate degree or higher is 43.2 percent, but it is only 31.6 percent for African Americans and is lower for Native Americans (24.6 percent) and Latinx individuals (24.5 percent). 

According to the annual study, every state has reached attainment rates of more than 40 percent, thanks in part to the inclusion of certifications, while thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have topped 50 percent. The report tracks progress toward Lumina's goal for the nation of 60 percent of working-age Americans holding a post-high-school credential by 2025.

"Lumina measures learning after high school that results in meaningful credentials because it determines whether all Americans — regardless of the color of their skin or where they live — can find long-term, meaningful employment and participate fully in our economy and society," said Courtney Brown, the foundation's vice president of strategic impact. "It's clear that as the nation faces a pandemic, historically high unemployment, and growing turmoil among communities rocked by racial injustice, we can only survive and thrive in the future if we provide opportunities for this economic mobility and social mobility to more people."