Associated Press and The New York Times
WASHINGTON — American adults are getting better educated, new Census Bureau estimates show.
Of Americans age 25 and older this year, a record-high 84.1 percent had at least a high school degree, up from 83.4 percent in 1999 and 24.5 percent in 1940, the earliest records available, according to the Census report being released Ttoday.
In addition, 25.6 percent of those age 25 and older have graduated from college, also a new high. It was up slightly from 25.2 percent last year, and 4.6 percent in 1940.
Washington state and South Dakota, each at 91.8 percent, tie as the top states with the highest percentage of adults with at least a high school diploma. Census statistics also show Washington, at 28.6 percent, ranks 11th nationally in percentage of residents that hold college degrees.
The report is in line with other studies on Americans’ educational attainment, advocates say. It typically shows about a 1 percentage point increase in degree holders each year, Census analyst Eric Newburger said.
"It’s largely because students realize that in order to exist in today’s economy, they definitely have to a high school degree. And what’s interesting is that while rates have gone up, the grade requirements are much stiffer," said Kathleen Lyons, spokeswoman for the National Education Association. "So it’s good news all around."
The statistics were collected as part of a Census Bureau survey in March, but are not results from Census 2000. The first Census 2000 population numbers will be released late next week.
The biggest improvements came among blacks over 25: 78.5 percent had completed high school, compared with 66.2 percent a decade ago, and 16.5 percent held bachelor’s degrees, compared with 11.3 percent in 1990.
But Hispanics were still lagging behind other groups: 10.6 percent were college graduates and 57 percent had completed high school as of March. Ten years earlier, 9.2 percent had bachelor’s degrees and 50.8 percent had high school diplomas.
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