Chart Detail

Educational attainment, by income group, selected years, 1979–2007

1979 1989 1995 2000 2007
Bottom fifth 
Less than high school 45.3% 35.5% 34.1% 32.6% 30.4%
High school only 33.4 40.1 36.9 38.7 37.8
Some college 15.2 18.0 23.0 21.9 23.7
College graduate 3.9 4.3 4.7 5.5 6.3
Advanced degree 2.3 2.1 1.3 1.2 1.8
Second fifth
Less than high school 32.5% 23.1% 21.3% 20.6% 17.6%
High school only 39.4 44.3 41.7 39.6 39.2
Some college 19.1 22.5 26.5 28.9 30.1
College graduate 5.8 6.9 8.4 8.7 10.5
Advanced degree 3.3 3.3 2.3 2.2 2.6
Middle fifth
Less than high school 22.4% 14.8% 12.2% 11.7% 9.8%
High school only 41.6 43.6 39.4 37.4 35.5
Some college 21.5 25.6 31.3 32.5 32.4
College graduate 9.4 10.6 13.5 14.2 16.7
Advanced degree 5.1 5.5 3.7 4.2 5.6
Fourth fifth
Less than high school 17.4% 9.6% 7.3% 6.4% 4.9%
High school only 39.7 37.4 33.6 31.1 28.2
Some college 23.5 28.3 32.2 32.3 32.6
College graduate 11.4 15.7 19.2 21.8 23.8
Advanced degree 8.0 9.1 7.7 8.4 10.6
80th–<95th percentile
Less than high school 11.3% 5.7% 3.4% 3.0% 2.4%
High school only 35.7 28.1 23.1 20.8 18.7
Some college 24.6 26.4 28.9 27.9 26.4
College graduate 15.5 22.5 28.7 30.5 32.5
Advanced degree 12.9 17.4 15.9 17.8 20.0
Top 5 percent
Less than high school 6.3% 2.2% 1.9% 1.5% 1.2%
High school only 24.5 16.0 13.5 9.8 8.3
Some college 23.0 20.7 19.3 18.3 16.9
College graduate 21.9 29.7 32.6 37.4 36.7
Advanced degree 24.3 31.4 32.7 33.1 36.9
All
Less than high school 20.2% 13.2% 11.0% 10.7% 9.0%
High school only 37.4 36.1 32.3 30.6 28.6
Some college 22.1 25.0 28.7 29.0 29.0
College graduate 11.5 15.1 18.6 19.9 21.8
Advanced degree 8.8 10.6 9.4 9.8 11.7

Note: Educational attainment is measured by determining what share of a given income group's total hours worked were worked by workers with a given education level.

Source: Authors' analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata

Updated May 21, 2012

Documentation and methodology

Underlying data are from Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement microdata; see Appendix A for details. The data are sorted by household income and placed into the income groupings. Then, an hours-weighted measure of the share of all hours worked by workers with the given educational attainment is constructed for each of the income groupings.

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