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Education levels hit an all-time high

NEW YORK — Although the United States no longer leads the world in educational attainment, record numbers of young Americans are completing high school, going to college, and finishing college, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available census data.

This year, for the first time, a third of the nation’s 25- to 29-year-olds have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. That share has been slowly edging up for decades, from less than one-fifth of young adults in the early 1970s to 32 percent last year.

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The share of high school graduates in that age group, along with the share of those with some college, has also reached record levels. This year, 90 percent were high school graduates, up from 78 percent in 1971. And 63 percent have completed some college work, up from 34 percent in 1971.

The study attributed the increase both to the recession and a sluggish jobs recovery, which led many young people to see higher education as their best option, and to changed attitudes about the importance of a college education.

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