Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Women Outperform Men in Educational Attainment

By Jim Robson, Senior Economist

One very important aspect of U.S. economic success, prosperity and growth over the decades has been increasing educational attainment of the populace over time. An educated workforce is associated with higher productivity, increasing real incomes, and better standard of living.

Levels of education have risen steadily in America over the past 73 years. In the 1940 Census, 24.5 percent of people age 25 and over had at least a high school diploma. By 2013 this had increased to 86.6 percent, with 29.6 percent having attained a bachelor’s degree or higher.


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In recent years, one trend of particular note has been the relatively large increase in educational attainment of women. This trend is most readily illustrated by examining the educational attainment among the younger generation, those 25 to 34 years of age.

The 2000 Census showed nationally that 81.9 percent of males, ages 25 to 34 had at least a high school diploma, increasing to 87.0 percent as measured by the American Community Survey (ACS) in 2013. Females, 25 to 34 years of age, registered 85.9 percent with at least a high school diploma in 2000, increasing to 90.2 percent in 2013.

When you look at college-level education at the national level, women significantly surpassed the level of attainment by men. In 2000, 25.7 percent of U.S. males 25 to 34 years of age had a bachelor’s degree or higher, increasing to 28.9 percent by 2013. For U.S. women of the same age, measured attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher was 29.4 percent (3.7 percentage points above the men) in 2000, increasing by 7.5 percentage points to 36.9 percent in 2013.

Looking at this same data for those in the 25 to 34 age group in Utah, we see that men exceeded the educational attainment levels of men nationally for those with at least a high school education. Utah men had similar levels as men nationally with a bachelor’s degree or higher. In 2000, 25.6 percent of Utah men had a bachelor’s degree or higher, in 2013 it had increased to 29.9 percent.

For Utah women in the 25 to 34 age group, 93.3 percent—3.1 percentage points above the national level for women—have a high school diploma or above in 2013. While more Utah women in 2013 have a bachelor’s degree or higher (33.1 percent) than Utah men (29.9 percent), Utah women are 3.8 percentage points below the national level. This is an improvement for women in Utah relative to the national level recorded in 2010, when Utah women were 5.6 percent below the U.S. percentage of 35.0 percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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