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posted on 08 November 2015

Leading, Lagging, And Left Behind

from the Atlanta Fed

From 1990 to 2010, the United States underwent significant changes in the makeup of the population and its educational attainment. During the period, bachelor's degree or higher attainment proportions rose significantly - 7.9 percentage points - from 20.3 percent in 1990 to 28.2 percent in 2010. This growth happened unevenly, though. Of 283 metropolitan areas, only 78 were above the 7.9 percentage point increase, suggesting much more concentrated growth than would be expected if growth were experienced evenly.

Expanding college wage premiums and the numerous documented social benefits - such as improved health and increased life expectancy - have contributed to a focus on increasing the national level of bachelor's degree or higher attainment (BA+ degrees). There has been significant concern from leaders, the educational policy community, and other policymakers that the United States has fallen and continues to fall behind the rest of the world in the rate of BA+ holding workers.

Increasing the rate of bachelor's or higher degree attainment has been an important policy concern in the United States for at least the last 20 years. In 1990 the BA+ attainment rate stood at 20.3 percent. Over the following two decades, it would increase by 7.9 percentage points, to 28.2 percent. Presidents and Congress have used a number of incentives to support this goal, including restructuring primary education, expanding financing options for postsecondary education, and incentivizing efficiency in higher education. To this end, President Obama has pushed for college access by raising funding for the Pell Grant program as one of his central administrative initiatives (Carnevale 2010).

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Source: publications/discussionpapers/2015/1510.pdf?la=en


Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bank or the Federal Reserve System.

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