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RELEASE: New Education Attainment Data Show Half of Young Adults Have Earned College Degrees as Racial Gaps Persist

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new analysis of U.S. census data revealing that in 2019, for the first time, half of young adults in the United States had earned a college degree. The new data represent an increase from the 47.8 percent of young adults who had obtained a college degree as of 2017, when CAP last evaluated national attainment. The new analysis finds that Black and Latino young adults have made the largest gains, though white adults continue to have higher rates of education attainment.

The analysis also reveals the extent to which reengaging college noncompleters could be a promising strategy for further boosting overall attainment rates and narrowing racial disparities. This phenomenon is likely even more relevant with recent data revealing sharp declines in college enrollment, particularly among nonwhite students, in light of the pandemic and shift to virtual learning.

“With 2 in 3 jobs in America today requiring some sort of postsecondary credential, it is encouraging to see the United States continue to make progress toward boosting college degree attainment rates, though we know a persistent racial divide continues to threaten the prospects of America’s increasingly diverse young adult population,” said Marshall Anthony Jr., senior policy analyst for Postsecondary Education at CAP. “As we recover from the pandemic, it is critical for colleges to reengage noncompleters and for policymakers to eliminate funding gaps at institutions serving larger proportions of students of color. The Biden administration must also target resources to close attainment disparities by race and gender.”

Click here to read “Building a College-Educated America Requires Closing Racial Gaps in Attainment” by Marshall Anthony Jr.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at or 202-741-6292.