Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Back to school special
Part 1: Education data today

By Sydney Beveridge, Social Explorer


With the new school year approaching, Social Explorer is taking a closer look at education data today and over the years.

The most recent available data (from the 2009 American Community Survey) reveal education levels and distinctions among groups, as well as the correlations between educational attainment, income and employment.

Lesson 1: Education helps with employment.

Civilian Employment Rate by Educational Attainment (25 to 64 years old)


It’s a tough job market out there for everyone, but especially for those with less education.  Finishing high school cuts a graduate’s potential unemployment rate by more than one third.  Earning a bachelor’s degree lowers unemployment to 4.5 percent.  (Getting too many graduate degrees may or may not help your employment prospects, of course.)

Lesson 2: Educational attainment and earnings differ by gender.

Educational Attainment by Gender (25 years old and above)

Looking at gender, men are outpacing women in education at every level except for some college or associates degrees.  However, trends in enrollment may shift this dynamic, which Social Explorer will examine in a future post on education over the decades.

Lesson 3: It pays to be a man.

Annual Earnings By Sex By Educational Attainment (25 years old and above)

Across all education levels, income disparities exist between men and women.  As the data show, this gap grows wider with more education in terms of dollars, but stays around the same percentage (approximately 42 percent higher for men).  (Certain factors may influence this trend, such as time taken off for child-rearing.)

Lesson 4: Education levels vary by race and ethnicity.

Educational Attainment by Race and Ethnicity (25 years old and above)

Data on adult educational attainment also reveals differences between different groups.  For instance, Asians earn the most bachelors, graduate and professional degrees, but are average for the number of high school dropouts.  Meanwhile Hispanics and Native Americans/Alaska Natives  are the most likely to have not graduated from high school.

For more information about different graduate degrees obtained, and detailed data on educational attainment by race and gender, check out Social Explorer’s reports.

We hope you enjoyed part one of our back to school series.  Check back soon for parts two and three.  We promise there won’t be a quiz, but data just might help you succeed in school.

Read Part two. This report is also available on the Social Explorer blog.

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