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A different look at US Educational Attainment

I've often said that the visualization on educational attainment in the US was perhaps the first visualization I did that blew my mind.  I thought it was a problem with the data.

And, frankly, I'm possibly more amazed that more people aren't amazed.  I've done a few posts on this topic, and it never seems to get much traction.  So I'll give it another shot this time.

In 1940, less than 5% of adults in the US had a college degree or more.  By 2020, it's risen to almost 38%.  I was born in the late 50's and when I went to college in the 70's, the number was still only in the 15% range.  That's why the term "first generation" wasn't even a thing: The majority of college students at that time were probably first gen kids.

We were all a spillover effect of WWII and the GI Bill, which offered college access to the veterans who made it back alive (but unfortunately, the benefits didn't go to everyone who fought).  And if we know one thing, it's that people who have a college education have children who go to college.  The ramp up continued well after my time in college.

What also happened after WWII was unprecedented economic expansion.  The growth of the two indices may be coincidental; they may be cause and effect.  You decide, but I know what I think. 

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If you're a regular reader, you may recognize the first tab shown below.  It shows the profile of adults in the US from 1940 to 2020 in ten-year increments.  Use the filters at left to choose only certain age groups, or limit by gender.  The highlighter lets you more easily compare attainment levels across time.

The second tab shows the gender breakouts of each attainment level (chosen in the filter at left) over time.  The default view shows that in 2000, for instance, for all adults over 25, 51.85% of bachelor's degree holders were men.  Make you selections at left, and hover over the bars for an explanation. 

And finally, the last view (this is using the tabs across the top, of course) is quite compelling to me.  It shows the distribution of educational attainment by age.  Look at the lower right hand segment in the default view and hover for an explanation. And then notice the change in the red segments over time.

Could America be facing a shortage of college-educated people in the future as baby boomers retire?

As always, play around, use the reset button if you get stuck, and let me know what you see.



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