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Educational attainment of the labor force
June 2020

Profile of the labor force by educational attainment

Vernon Brundage, Jr.

DEWS Workbench Patch 732_20200310.

Increased education is associated with both higher wages and lower unemployment. This Spotlight on Statistics highlights how that relationship has changed over time and examines additional detail on educational attainment.

The charts and analysis that follow illustrate historical and current statistics from the Current Population Survey on the U.S. labor force for people age 25 years and older by educational attainment, defined as the highest diploma or degree received at the time the survey was conducted.

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Educational attainment rises over the last 24 years

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The U.S. labor force has become increasingly educated over the last 24 years. From 1992 to 2016, the share of the labor force made up of people with a bachelor’s degree and an advanced degree (includes people with master's, professional, and doctoral degrees) has grown consistently, rising by 7 percentage points and 5 percentage points, respectively.

Over the same time period, the proportion of people with either less than a high school diploma or with a high school diploma but no college experience has declined by about 5 and 10 percentage points, respectively.

Since 2012, people with some college or an associate’s degree have made up the largest share of the U.S. civilian labor force compared to all other major categories of educational attainment. Prior to 2012, the largest share comprised people with a high school diploma but no college experience.