10 Key Takeaways on Degree Attainment for Latino Adults
As we stated previously, there are many benefits to having a college degree, both on an individual and societal level. Noting the economic and social benefits of a more educated community, more than 40 states over the past decade have adopted some sort of degree attainment goal — that is, to increase the share of residents in their states that have postsecondary degrees. Obviously, degree attainment is related to how well states actually educate their residents at the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels, but it is also a byproduct of each state’s economic market and broader social conditions. Policies and demographic trends related to immigration can also influence degree attainment, particularly for Latino adults.
As our nation becomes increasingly diverse and the number of working-age Latino adults grows, justice and equity for people of color must be a priority for policymakers looking to enact public policy change. For example, many states in the West — like Arizona, California, Colorado, and Texas — will have a difficult time meeting their degree attainment goals if the gaps in degree attainment that exist between Latino and White adults are not closed.
In this brief, we highlight data at both the national and state level, including the current Latino degree attainment rate and increases (or decreases) in Latino degree attainment since 2000. Below are 10 key takeaways. And be sure to check out our Ed Watch interactive data tool to find out how your particular state is doing on Latino degree attainment.
- Nationally, Latino degree attainment is slightly above 22 percent, which is less than half the share of White adults who have earned at least an associate degree.
- Currently, Latino degree attainment is about 10 percentage points lower than White degree attainment was in 1990 — over 25 years ago.
- Latino attainment has grown since 2000, but not at a pace needed to close the attainment gap between Latino and White adults at the national level. In every state examined — except Florida and Wyoming — the gap between Latino and White adults increased.
- There has been little intergenerational improvement in degree attainment among Latino adults. Only 24.5 percent of younger Latino adults (25-34) have earned a degree compared to 20.3 percent of older Latino adults (55-64). Degree attainment among younger White adults is nearly 10 percentage points higher than it is for older White adults.
- Latino degree attainment did not exceed White degree attainment in any of the 44 states we examined, and degree attainment gap exceeded 20 percentage points in 30 of the 44 states. California, Colorado, Nebraska, Massachusetts and Connecticut had gaps over 30 percentage points. (Note: we did not included six states in our analysis because they had fewer than 15,000 Latino adults).
- Gains in Latino attainment were usually greater in states with larger Latino populations. Top performing states: Florida, Hawaii, New Jersey, and New York. These states have the highest degree attainment levels for Latino adults and have seen the largest gains since 2000.
- Bottom performing states for Latino degree attainment: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee. These states have the lowest degree attainment levels for Latino adults and have seen the smallest gains since 2000. Gains in attainment were typically lower, and in many cases, close to zero in southern states. These trends may be in part influenced by the rapid growth and migration of Latino adults in these states.
- Native-born Latino adults (who were born in the 50 states or Washington D.C.) are more likely to hold some form of college degree (29.8 percent) compared with other Latino adults (17.2 percent). However, the attainment rate for native-born Latino adults still lags about 17 percentage points behind their White peers.
- Latino degree attainment is lower among Mexican-Americans compared with other Latinos. Degree attainment for Mexican-Americans is 17.4 percent compared with nearly 30 percent for Puerto Ricans and nearly 40 percent for Cuban Americans.
- Varied representation of Latino ethnic groups, such as Mexican-American and Cuban-American, as well as immigration patterns across the country and in states may partially explain why western states (e.g., CA, AZ, NV, TX) have lower Latino degree attainment than some eastern states (e.g., FL, VA, MD, NY, MA).