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Number of Master and Doctoral Degrees Doubles Among Population

In the last two decades, the number of people with master’s and doctoral degrees has doubled.

Since 2000, the number of people age 25 and over whose highest degree was a master’s has doubled to 21 million, and the number of doctoral degree holders has more than doubled to 4.5 million. In 2000, one-third of people with at least a bachelor’s degree had completed an advanced degree. By 2018, that proportion had grown to 37 percent.

About 13.1 percent of U.S. adults have an advanced degree, up from 8.6 percent in 2000.

These findings come from the Census Bureau’s Educational Attainment in the United States: 2018 table package that uses statistics from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement to examine the educational attainment of adults age 25 and older by demographic and social characteristics, such as age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, nativity and disability status.

The data also found that in 2017, on average a person with an advanced degree earned 3.7 times as much as an average high school dropout.

  • Between 2000 and 2018 the percentage of people age 25 and older who had completed a bachelor's degree or higher increased by 9 percentage points, from 25.6 percent to 35.0 percent.

  • The percentage of people age 25 and over who had completed less than a high school diploma or equivalent for men (10.6 percent) was higher than for women (9.8 percent).

  • Among Asians ages 25 to 29 in 2018, almost 7 in 10 (69.5 percent) had a bachelor’s or higher degree. Five years earlier (in 2013), the bachelor’s attainment rate for this group was 59 percent.

  • Recent immigrants to the United States are more likely to have a college education than earlier immigrants or U.S. natives. Among immigrants who have arrived since 2000, 38.8 percent have a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared with 35.2 percent of U.S. natives. Among earlier immigrants, the rate of college education was lower — 31.3 percent for those who arrived in the 1990s.

  • Naturalized citizens were among the groups with high levels of college attainment, with 38.4 percent having a bachelor’s or higher degree. The children of immigrants were also likely to be bachelor’s degree holders, with 39.6 percent having this or a higher level of education.

The Current Population Survey, sponsored jointly by the Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the primary source of labor force statistics for the population of the United States.

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