Educational attainment: Educational equity is key to building a strong, resilient workforce. 

Insights & Analyses

  • Nationwide, Black and white immigrants are more likely than their US-born counterparts to hold a college degree. The reverse is true for Latinx, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders: US-born adults are more likely to hold these degrees compared with those born abroad.

  • In 2020, women in the US are more likely than men to have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. This was also the case across race and ethnicity for all groups except for Asian Americans, in which men have a slight advantage.

  • Across ancestries nationwide, Indian and Taiwanese adults are most likely to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (82 percent and 80 percent, respectively).

  • Residents in East Coast states and districts like the District of Columbia and Massachusetts are most likely to have a bachelor’s degree while residents in Southern states like West Virginia and Mississippi are least likely to have a bachelor’s degree.

  • Wealthier California cities, such as Irvine and San Francisco, have the highest rates of educational attainment out of the top 100 largest US cities while poorer California cities, such as San Bernardino and Santa Ana, have the lowest rates.

Drivers of Inequity

The gap in educational attainment between White students and students of color is largely driven by disparities in school poverty rates. Students of color are more likely to attend high-poverty schools because of ongoing racial segregation forged through historical practices such as racially exclusive housing covenants and zoning laws as well as ongoing ones such as discriminatory hiring and mortgage lending. Students at high-poverty schools often have less access to quality resources and score lower on standardized testing than their wealthier counterparts. At the same time, the rising cost of college combined with decreased financial aid prevents many students of color, who are disproportionately low income, from attending college.


Grow an equitable economy: Policies to ensure educational equity

Strategy in Action

Baltimore's BioTechnical Institute training program connects high school grads to high-growth careers. The Baltimore region is a national leader in biotechnology and medical research, which accounted for one-third of new jobs over the last decade. But these jobs are often out of reach for people with less than a college degree. The BioTechnical Institute of Maryland, based in Baltimore, prepares low-income, mostly African American high school graduates for competitive careers in leading labs in the region. More than 75 percent of its 425 graduates have gotten jobs in laboratory settings, and roughly 40 percent of graduates have gone on to pursue advanced degrees. The program also leads to wages that are 90 to 160 percent above the participants' pre-program wages. Read more.

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