Education is one of the dominant factors in determining how developed a country is. According to the Global Partnership for Education, “Education is a vital human right and plays a key role in human, social, and economic development. Education reduces poverty, boosts the economy, promotes gender equality, and promotes peace. Education is essential in achieving the 17 Global Goals for sustainable development to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet by 2030. These goals include no poverty, zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities, responsible consumption and production, and more.
Approximately 90% of Americans over 25 have a high school diploma and 34% have a Bachelor’s degree. This is an 8% increase in Bachelor’s degree attainment from 2000. The Census Bureau reports that 13% of Americans have an advanced degree (master’s, professional, and/or doctorate), which matches the share of the population with Bachelor’s degrees in 1973.
In the United States, education attainment is strongly correlated with median incomes, according to the Census Bureau’s 2016 data. Those with a high school diploma had a median income of $36,700 and those without had a median income of $27,800. Those with a Bachelor’s or advanced degree had median incomes of $67,300 and $95,200 respectively.
Education attainment is affected by multiple factors and obstacles. One of these is the socio-economic status and the urban/rural location of students. Attaining a higher education (college degree) is difficult for many due to high tuition costs or lack of access to more affordable options. Other factors include starting a family, career path, personal difficulties, dissatisfaction with the university experience, lack of time, and lack of interest.
The ten states with the highest education attainment are:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Hampshire
- New York
The District of Columbia has the highest educational attainment in the United States. 90.30% of the population has a high school diploma or higher and 56.60% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. West Virginia has the lowest percentage of educational attainment of a Bachelor’s degree or higher of 19.90%.