Bachelor's degrees are more common than ever before among young people

The number of people in the job market with bachelor's degrees is higher than it's ever been before, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

For the analysis, researchers looked at data from the 1964, 1985, 2000, and 2016 Current Population Survey (CPS) and Annual Social and Economic Supplements (ASEC), both administered by the U.S. Census Bureau. They focused on employed individuals, meaning those who were "at work in the week prior to the survey or who were temporarily absent from their jobs."

Researchers found that today's young workers are much more highly educated than their predecessors:

  • 40% of employed millennials had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2016, whereas 26% of baby boomers had a bachelor's degree when they were roughly the same age (25 to 29) in 1985; and
  • 46% of employed millennial women had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2016, whereas 36% of Generation X women had a bachelor's degree when they were roughly the same age in 2000.

Researchers also found that while educational attainment has increased over time for all racial and ethnic groups, gaps still exist:

  • 65% of millennial Asian workers had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2016; whereas 47% of millennial white workers had at least a bachelor's degree that year; and only
  • 27% of millennial black workers and 21% of millennial Hispanic workers had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2016.

(Graf, Pew Research Center, 5/16).

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