United States Education at a Glance 2019: Where Do We Stand in the World?

Title: Education at a Glance 2019: OECD Indicators

Date: September 2019

Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides international comparisons on how education systems are structured and funded and are performing in 36 OECD member countries. The report focuses on tertiary education, with data on completion rates, doctoral graduates, labor market outcomes, and admissions in 2018.

Key findings reflecting data for the United States in the report include:

  • The most commonly held degree for young adults aged 25 to 34 was the bachelor’s degree at 28 percent, whereas the OECD average was 24 percent. Among college completers in this age bracket, attainment of short-cycle tertiary education [1], such as workforce credentials, was higher than the OECD average (10 percent and 8 percent, respectively).
  • The percentage of young adults getting master’s or doctoral degrees in the United States was 12 percent, lower than the average of all OECD countries (15 percent) and the average across 23 European Union countries (18 percent).
  • The United States ranked second in the expenditures per full-time student on tertiary education per year at $30,165, followed by Luxembourg at $48,407. The average expenditures per full-time student across all OECD countries was $15,556.
  • As a return on investment, adults aged 25 to 64 with tertiary education in the United States make 72 percent more than those with upper-secondary education. This was much higher than the average of all OECD countries (57 percent).
  • On average, across all OECD countries, women with tertiary education who worked full time earned only 75 percent of what men earned. In the United States, women with a tertiary education who worked full time earned 71 percent of what men earned.

For more findings and details of the report, please visit the OECD website.

[1] Short-cycle tertiary education: Often designed to provide participants with professional knowledge, skills and competencies. Typically, they are practically based, occupation-specific and prepare students to enter the labor market directly. They may also provide a pathway to other tertiary education programs. The minimum duration is 2 years.

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