If education counts, Americans have never been smarter

WASHINGTON — The Census Bureau says more than one-third of the U.S. adult population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, the highest proportion ever.

The percentage rose to 33.4 percent in 2016. The Census Bureau has been collecting the information for 76 years, and says in 1940 just 4.6 percent of U.S. adults had a bachelor’s degree.

The proportion is also sharply higher than just a decade ago, when 28 percent of U.S. adults 25 and older had at least a bachelor’s degree.

The average earnings for those 25 and older whose highest education attainment was high school was $35,615, while the average earnings for those with a bachelor’s degree was $65,482; for those with an advanced degree, $92,525.

Asian and non-Hispanic white populations are most likely to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, at 55.9 percent and 37.7 percent, respectively. The number drops to 23.3 percent among the U.S. black population and 16.4 percent among the Hispanic population.

A look at how the number of people with a bachelor’s degree or more has grown over the years. (Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)
Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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