Percentage of the U.S. population with a college degree 1940-2018, by gender

In an impressive increase from years past, 35.3 percent of women in the United States had completed four years or more of college in 2018. This figure is up from 3.8 percent of women in 1940. A significant increase can also be seen in males, with 34.6 percent of the U.S. male population having completed four years or more of college, up from 5.5 percent in 1940.

4- and 2-year colleges

In the United States, college students are able to choose between attending a 2-year postsecondary program and a 4-year postsecondary program. Generally, attending a 2-year program results in an Associate’s Degree, and 4-year programs result in a Bachelor’s Degree.

Many 2-year programs are designed so that attendees can transfer to a college or university offering a 4-year program upon completing their Associate’s. Completion of a 4-year program is the generally accepted standard for entry-level positions when looking for a job.

Earnings after college

Factors such as gender, degree achieved, and the level of postsecondary education can have an impact on employment and earnings later in life. Some Bachelor’s Degrees continue to attract more male students than female, particularly in STEM fields, while liberal arts degrees such as education, languages and literatures, and communication tend to see higher female attendance.

All of these factors have an impact on earnings after college, and despite nearly the same rate of attendance within the American population between males and females, men with a Bachelor’s Degree continue to have higher weekly earnings on average than their female counterparts.

Percentage of the U.S. population who have completed four years of college or more from 1940 to 2018, by gender

YearMaleFemale
1940 5.5%3.8%
1947 6.2%4.7%
1950 7.3%5.2%
1952 8.3%5.8%
1957 9.6%5.8%
1959 10.3%6%
1962 11.4%6.7%
1964 11.7%6.8%
1965 12%7.1%
1966 12.5%7.4%
1967 12.8%7.6%
1968 13.3%8%
1969 13.6%8.1%
1970 14.1%8.2%
1971 14.6%8.5%
1972 15.4%9%
1973 16%9.6%
1974 16.9%10.1%
1975 17.6%10.6%
1976 18.6%11.3%
1977 19.2%12%
1978 19.7%12.2%
1979 20.4%12.9%
1980 20.9%13.6%
1981 21.1%13.4%
1982 21.9%14%
1983 23%15.1%
1984 22.9%15.7%
1985 23.1%16%
1986 23.2%16.1%
1987 23.6%16.5%
1988 24%17%
1989 24.5%18.1%
1990 24.4%18.4%
1991 24.3%18.8%
1992 24.3%18.6%
1993 24.8%19.2%
1994 25.1%19.6%
1995 26%20.2%
1996 26%21.4%
1997 26.2%21.7%
1998 26.5%22.4%
1999 27.5%23.1%
200027.8%23.6%
200128.2%24.3%
200228.5%25.1%
200328.9%25.7%
200429.4%26.1%
200528.9%26.5%
200629.2%26.9%
200729.5%28%
200830.1%28.8%
200930.1%29.1%
201030.3%29.6%
201130.8%30.1%
201231.4%30.6%
201332%31.4%
201431.9%32%
201532.3%32.7%
201633.2%33.7%
201733.7%34.6%
201834.6%35.3%
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Source

Release date

February 2019

Region

United States

Survey time period

1940 to 2018

Age group

25 years and older

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Statistics on "Higher education graduation in the U.S."

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