The American population today has acquired more formal education than ever before, according to a report released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. The proportion of adults age 25 and older who had received at least a high-school diploma increased from 75 percent to 80 percent between 1990 and 2000, while the percentage with a bachelor's degree climbed from 20 percent to 24 percent. In 1940-the first year the census asked these questions-only about one in four adults had completed high school and only one in 20 held a bachelor's degree.
"In surveying the changes over time, it's amazing to see how the educational landscape has changed," said Kurt J. Bauman, author of the census report. "We went from a society mid-century where high-school graduation was the mark of an educated minority to one today in which it is the base educational level for four out of five adults."
Among all adults, women and men are equally likely to have completed high school, while a higher percentage of men hold bachelor's and advanced degrees. The census data indicate that could be changing, however: Women under 40 are more likely than their male peers to have a college degree.