Among the employed population 25 and older, 37% of women had attained a bachelor's degree or more as of 2010, compared with 35% of men, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Among all adults 25 and older (including not only working, but also retired and unemployed) the number is even -- 30% of both men and women hold degrees.
The data come from tabulations on Educational Attainment in the United States: 2010 and not only examine gender differences in attainment but also provide the most detailed information on years of school completed ever presented by the Census Bureau, showing for each level of attainment exactly how many years of education adults have.
Women also have gained an edge in post-graduate education. More women now hold masters' degrees -- 8.3 million versus 6.9 million men in the US. More men still hold professional degrees (1.9 million versus 1.2 million women), as well as doctoral degrees (1.8 million versus 1 million women).
If you ever have a chance to peruse a college yearbook from the 1950s, you will see a sea of male faces on the pages. Even in the last census year, 2000, the Census Bureau reported that men still exhibited higher levels of college degrees. Among people 25 years or older in 2000, 26% of men had bachelor’s degrees or more, compared with 23% of women. (Actually, it's impressive that both these numbers rose to 30% within the past decade.)
Still, there are still a large number of people that did not finish school for one reason or another. In 2010, 36% of the nation's population 25 and older left school before obtaining a degree. This includes 15% percent of the population that didn't earn a regular high school diploma. An even greater share of the 25-and-older population — 17% — attended some college but left before receiving a degree. At the graduate school level, 4% of the population left before obtaining an advanced degree.
Racial disparities also exist in terms of educational attainment, the Census Bureau reports. More than half (52%) of Asians 25 and older had a bachelor's degree or more, higher than the level for non-Hispanic whites (33%), African Americans (20%) and Hispanics (14%).