Records Set for Diplomas, Degrees, Census Unit Says

Associated Press

Americans are more educated, but not necessarily smarter, than ever, setting records for the share of people with high school diplomas and college degrees last year, the Census Bureau reported today.

More than three-quarters of people aged 25 and over have completed high school and nearly one in five has finished at least four years of college--both records--the bureau said in a new study on educational attainment.

The percentage of educated Americans has been increasing gradually over the years, as society places stronger emphasis on education, said bureau demographer Robert Kominski.

“The entire post-Second World War era has been characterized by an expansion of educational opportunities and structures in the country,” Kominski said.


“In the 1960s the civil rights movement added another level of opportunity. And the expansion of college grant and aid programs in the ‘60s and ‘70s allowed this to continue,” he went on.

Also, Kominski added, changes in the age breakdown of the population have had an impact, as the less educated elderly become fewer.

People in their teens, with 80% to 90% completing high school, are replacing older folks who were raised at a time when completion of six to eight years of schooling was a major accomplishment, he said.

Does this mean that Americans today are smarter than in the past?


“Not necessarily,” said Kominski. “We all like to think that we were raised in the generation which produced the best and the brightest.”

Overall, 76.5% of Americans were found to have completed high school and 19.9% had finished four years of college, as of March, 1987. Those figures compare to 74.7% and 19.4% a year earlier and are up significantly from 68.6% and 17.0% in 1980.