Educational Attainment over Time, 1940–2009

The proportion of adults in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 34 with a four-year college degree held steady at 24% in the 1980s, but grew at an average rate of about 2.1% per year in the 1990s and about 1.0% per year from 2000 to 2009, from 29% to 32%.

Figure 2.7: Education Level of Individuals Ages 25 to 34, 1940–2009

Figure 2.7: Educational Attainment over Time, 1940–2009

Notes & Sources 

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2009b, Table A-1.

  • The proportion of young adults with four-year college degrees declined slightly during the 1940s, the decade of World War II. It grew dramatically in the 1950s, at an average annual rate of about 7.6%.
  • The proportion of adults between the ages of 25 and 34 who have some college experience but not a four-year degree grew rapidly in the 1970s and increased from 22% to 28% in the 1990s, but did not change measurably between 2000 and 2009.