The Typical College Graduate Is Changing—Now Younger, More Women
The makeup of Americans with college degrees is changing: They're getting older, women are better represented, and in general there are more graduates, according to the Census Bureau. Some 30 percent of adults now hold bachelor's degrees, and nearly 11 percent have a graduate degree.
“This is an important milestone in our history,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said in a press release. “For many people, education is a sure path to a prosperous life. The more education people have the more likely they are to have a job and earn more money, particularly for individuals who hold a bachelor's degree.”
In terms of gender, the numbers of men and women who hold bachelor's degrees are now nearly equal, with men still holding a minor lead. Significantly, the New York Times noted an accompanying report [PDF] from the American Community Survey, another Census Bureau project, which shows that women are also making gains in science and engineering fields of study, which have historically been dominated by men.
Older Americans with degrees are more difficult to replace, and many are still working by or after traditional retirement age, which is reflected in high employment numbers in that age group. Demographer William Frey, who reviewed the data, told the Chillicothe Gazette that the aging skilled workforce is significant, and should be factored into policy.
“The fact that a substantial segment of today's older workers are more educated and experienced accounts for their taking fewer employment hits,” he said. “It suggests the wisdom of formulating government policies and incentives to keep these well-educated seniors in the labor force beyond the traditional retirement age of 65.”
Looking at a limited pool of jobs, though, an aging workforce has the potential to depress the economy by making it more difficult for young people who start careers.
While greater proportions of black and Latino individuals are now earning degrees, those groups are trailing educational achievement among whites by an increasing margin.
The Census Bureau is a government agency tasked by the Constitution to gather demographic and economic information about people living in the United States. The Bureau attempts to count the number of residents of the country every ten years, most recently in 2010.
Jon Christian is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Christian.