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Institute of Education Sciences

Education at a Glance 2021: Putting U.S. Data in a Global Context

International comparisons provide reference points for researchers and policy analysts to understand trends and patterns in national education data and are important as U.S. students compete in an increasingly global economy.

Education at a Glance, an annual publication produced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), provides data on the structure, finances, and performance of education systems in 38 OECD countries, including the United States, as well as a number of OECD partner countries. The report also includes state-level information on key benchmarks to inform state and local policies on global competitiveness.

The recently released 2021 edition of the report shows that the United States is above the international average on some measures, such as participation in and funding of postsecondary education, but lags behind in others, such as participation in early childhood education programs. The report also presents some initial comparisons on countries’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Postsecondary Educational Attainment

The percentage of U.S. 25- to 34-year-olds with a postsecondary degree increased by 10 percentage points between 2010 and 2020, reaching 52 percent, compared with the OECD average of 45 percent (figure 1). Attainment rates varied widely across the United States in 2020, from 33 percent for those living in Nevada to 61 percent for those living in Massachusetts and 77 percent for those living in the District of Columbia.


Figure 1. Percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a postsecondary degree, by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country: 2020

1 Year of reference differs from 2020. Refer to the source table for more details.
SOURCE: OECD (2021), Table A1.2. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes.


In the United States in 2020, 25- to 34-year-old women were more likely than 25- to 34-year-old men to attain a postsecondary education: 57 percent of women had a postsecondary qualification, compared with 47 percent of men, a difference of 10 percentage points. Across OECD countries, the postsecondary education gap between 25- to 34-year-old men and women was wider (13 percentage points) than the gap in the United States (10 percentage points). In 2020, the postsecondary attainment rate of 25- to 34-year-old men in the United States was 8 percentage points higher than the OECD average, whereas the rate of 25- to 34-year-old women in the United States was 5 percentage points higher than the OECD average.

Postsecondary Education Spending

U.S. spending on postsecondary education is also relatively high compared with the OECD average, in both absolute and relative terms. The United States spent $34,036 per postsecondary student in 2018, the second-highest amount after Luxembourg and nearly double the OECD average ($17,065). Also, U.S. spending on postsecondary education as a percentage of GDP (2.5 percent) was substantially higher than the OECD average (1.4 percent). These total expenditures include amounts received from governments, students, and all other sources.

Early Childhood Education

The level of participation in early childhood education programs in the United States is below the OECD average and falling further behind. Between 2005 and 2019, average enrollment rates for 3- to 5-year-olds across OECD countries increased from 77 to 87 percent. In contrast, the rate in the United States remained stable at 66 percent during this time period. Among U.S. states, the 2019 enrollment rates for 3- to 5-year-olds ranged from less than 50 percent in Idaho and North Dakota to 70 percent or more in New York (70 percent), Vermont (76 percent), Connecticut (76 percent), New Jersey (77 percent), and the District of Columbia (88 percent).

COVID-19 Pandemic

Education at a Glance also presents a first look at countries’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of COVID-19 impeded access to in-person education in many countries around the world in 2020 and 2021. By mid-May 2021, 37 OECD and partner countries had experienced periods of full school closure since the start of 2020.

Despite the impact of the crisis on employment, the share of NEETs (those neither in employment nor education or training) among 18- to 24-year-olds did not greatly increase in most OECD and partner countries during the first year of the COVID-19 crisis. On average, the share of 18- to 24-year-old NEETs in OECD countries rose from 14.4 percent in 2019 to 16.1 percent in 2020. However, Canada, Columbia, and the United States experienced an increase of more than 4 percentage points. In the United States, the share of 18- to 24-year-old NEETs increased from 14.6 percent in 2019 to 19.3 percent in 2020.

In 2020, many postsecondary education institutions around the world closed down to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially affecting more than 3.9 million international and foreign students studying in OECD countries. Early estimates show the percentage of international students attending postsecondary institutions in the United States declined by 16 percent between 2020 and 2021.

Browse the full report to see how the United States compares with other countries on these and other important education-related topics and learn more about how other countries’ education systems responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

By Rachel Dinkes, AIR

Celebrating National Principals Month With the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS)

October is National Principals Month. Whether developing a long-term strategic vision or carrying out the day-to-day management of school operations, our nation’s principals and school administrators are essential leaders in our children’s education. This blog provides information about the backgrounds of our public school principals, including the education that they received. Data are drawn from the 2017–18 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS).

The NTPS collects information about school conditions and the demographics of K–12 public and private school teachers and principals directly from the school staff themselves. Data are available both nationally and by state (via the NTPS State Dashboard) and are used by policymakers and researchers to make funding and other policy decisions.

 

Demographics and Characteristics of Principals

  • In the 2017–18 school year, 1 percent of all public school principals were Asian, 11 percent were Black or African American, 9 percent were Hispanic, regardless of race,1 less than 1 percent were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 78 percent were White, and 2 percent were Other2 races.
     
  • Seventy-nine percent of all principals in traditional public schools were White, compared with 67 percent of principals in public charter schools (figure 1).
     
  • Fifty-four percent of all public school principals were female. A higher percentage of primary school principals were female (67 percent) than were middle school (40 percent), high school (33 percent), or combined school (43 percent) principals.  

Figure 1. Percentage of school principals, by race/ethnicity and school type: 201718


Educational Attainment and Professional Experiences of Principals

NCES would like to thank every principal and administrator whose guidance and determination advances successes for public school students across the United States each and every day.

The data in this blog would not be possible without the participation of teachers, principals, and school staff in the NTPS. We have recently concluded the 2020–21 NTPS; to learn more about teachers’ and principals’ experiences during the coronavirus pandemic, please stay tuned for an upcoming report.

If you or your school was contacted about participating in the 2021–22 Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS) or Principal Follow-up Survey (PFS) and you have questions, please email ntps@census.gov or call 1-888-595-1338.

For more information about the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), please visit https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ntps/. More findings and details are available in the NTPS schoolteacher, and principal reports.

 

By Julia Merlin, NCES


[1] Principals who selected Hispanic, which includes Latino, as their ethnicity are referred to as Hispanic regardless of race. All other race categories in this blog exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.

[2] Other includes American Indian/Alaska Native and Two or more races.

[3] For the 2017–18 NTPS, the last school year was the 2016–17 school year.

Announcing the Condition of Education 2021 Release

NCES is pleased to present the 2021 edition of the Condition of Education, an annual report mandated by the U.S. Congress that summarizes the latest data on education in the United States. This report uses data from across the center and from other sources and is designed to help policymakers and the public monitor educational progress.

Beginning in 2021, individual indicators can be accessed online on the newly redesigned Condition of Education Indicator System website. A synthesis of key findings from these indicators can be found in the Report on the Condition of Education, a more user-friendly PDF report.

A total of 86 indicators are included in this year’s Condition of Education, 55 of which were updated this year. As in prior years, these indicators present a range of topics from prekindergarten through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons. Additionally, this year’s 55 updated indicators include 17 indicators on school crime and safety.

For the 2021 edition of the Condition of Education, most data were collected prior to 2020, either during the 2018–19 academic year or in fall 2019. Therefore, with some exceptions, this year’s report presents findings from prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the elementary and secondary level (prekindergarten through grade 12), the data show that 50.7 million students were enrolled in public schools fall 2018, the most recent year for which data were available at the time this report was written. Public charter school enrollment accounted for 7 percent (3.3 million students) of these public school enrollments, more than doubling from 3 percent (1.6 million students) in 2009. In 2019, U.S. 4th- and 8th-grade students scored above the scale centerpoint (500 out of 1000) on both the math and science assessments in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

In 2020, 95 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds had at least a high school diploma or equivalent, while 39 percent had a bachelor’s or higher degree. These levels of educational attainment are associated with economic outcomes, such as employment and earnings. For example, among those working full time, year round, annual median earnings in 2019 were 59 percent higher for 25- to 34-year-olds with a bachelor’s or higher degree than for those with a high school diploma or equivalent.

In addition to regularly updated annual indicators, this year’s two spotlight indicators highlight early findings on the educational impact of the coronavirus pandemic from the Household Pulse Survey (HPS).

  • The first spotlight examines distance learning at the elementary and secondary level at the beginning of the 2020–21 academic year. Overall, among adults with children under 18 in the home enrolled in school, two-thirds reported in September 2020 that classes had been moved to a distance learning format using online resources. In order to participate in these remote learning settings, students must have access to computers and the internet. More than 90 percent of adults with children in their household reported that one or both of these resources were always or usually available to children for educational purposes in September 2020. At the same time, 59 percent of adults reported that computers were provided by the child’s school or district, while 4 percent reported that internet access was paid for by the child’s school or district. Although higher percentages of lower income adults reported such assistance, this did not eliminate inequalities in access to these resources by household income.
  • The second spotlight examines changes in postsecondary education plans for fall 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Among adults 18 years old and over who had household members planning to take classes in fall 2020 from a postsecondary institution, 45 percent reported that the classes at least one household member planned would be in different formats in the fall (e.g., formats would change from in-person to online), 31 percent reported that all plans to take classes in the fall had been canceled for at least one household member, and 12 percent reported that at least one household member would take fewer classes in the fall. Some 28 percent reported no change in fall plans to take postsecondary classes for at least one household member. The two most frequently cited reasons for the cancellation of plans were having the coronavirus or having concerns about getting the coronavirus (46 percent), followed by not being able to pay for classes/educational expenses because of changes to income from the pandemic (42 percent).

The Condition of Education also includes an At a Glance section, a Reader’s Guide, a Glossary, and a Guide to Sources, all of which provide additional background information. Each indicator includes references to the source data tables used to produce the indicator.

As new data are released throughout the year, indicators will be updated and made available online.

In addition to publishing the Condition of Education, NCES produces a wide range of other reports and datasets designed to help inform policymakers and the public about significant trends and topics in education. More information about the latest activities and releases at NCES may be found on our website or by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

 

By James L. Woodworth, NCES Commissioner

New Education Data from the Household Pulse Survey

Recognizing the extraordinary information needs of policymakers during the coronavirus pandemic, NCES joined a partnership with the Census Bureau and four other federal statistical agencies to quickly develop a survey to gather key indicators of our nation’s response to the global pandemic. Thus, the experimental 2020 Household Pulse Survey began development on March 23, 2020, and data collection began on April 23, 2020. This new survey provides weekly national and state estimates, which are released to the public in tabular formats one week after the end of data collection.

The Household Pulse Survey gathers information from adults about employment status, spending patterns, food security, housing, physical and mental health, access to health care, and educational disruption. The education component includes questions about the following:

  • The weekly time spent on educational activities by students in public and private elementary and secondary schools
  • The availability of computer equipment and the Internet for instructional purposes
  • The extent to which computer equipment and the Internet for students were provided or subsidized

Since this survey is designed to represent adults 18 years old and over, the responses to the education questions concern students within the households of adults 18 years old and over, not the percentage of students themselves.

In the Household Pulse Survey during the weeks of April 23 through May 5, adults reported that their average weekly time spent on teaching activities with elementary and secondary students in their household was 13.1 hours. These results differed by educational attainment: adults who had not completed high school reported a weekly average of 9.9 hours in teaching activities with children, whereas adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree reported 13.9 hours (figure 1). In terms of the average weekly time spent on live virtual contact between students in their household and their teachers, adults reported a lower average of 4.1 hours.



Adults’ reports about the school instruction model need to be interpreted carefully because respondents could choose multiple types of approaches. A higher percentage of adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree (84 percent) reported that classes for elementary and secondary students in their household had moved to a format using online resources than did adults who had completed some college or an associate’s degree (74 percent), adults who had completed only high school (64 percent), or adults who had not completed high school (57 percent).

Higher percentages of adults with higher levels of education than of adults with lower levels of education reported that computers and the Internet were always available for educational purposes for elementary and secondary students in their households (figure 2).



The percentage of adults who reported that the school district provided a computer or digital device for children in their households to use at home for educational purposes was higher for adults who had not completed high school (44 percent) than for adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree (33 percent). Also, a higher percentage of adults who had not completed high school than of adults with higher levels of educational attainment reported financial assistance for student Internet access.

It is important to note that the speed of the survey development and the pace of the data collection efforts have led to policies and procedures for the experimental Household Pulse Survey that are not always consistent with traditional federal survey operations. Data should be interpreted with proper caution.  

More information on the Household Pulse Survey, detailed statistical tables, and microdata sets are available at https://www.census.gov/householdpulsedata. The Household Pulse Survey site includes breakouts of the data by other characteristics, such as race/ethnicity. In addition to participating in the development of this new survey, NCES has also generated new analyses based on existing data that respond to new needs for policy information, such as the availability of the Internet for student learning.

 

By Xiaolei Wang, AIR

The High School and Beyond Midlife Study

Over the years, NCES has conducted several longitudinal studies that collect information on a representative cohort of high school students and follow the students’ outcomes through postsecondary education and/or entry into the workforce. These studies have led to important research on the educational trajectories of young adults.

But what happens after that? A recent data collection provides some answers by following up with survey participants later in life.

In 2014–15, the High School and Beyond (HS&B) Midlife Study collected information from a cohort of individuals in their early- to mid-50s, all of whom had first completed an HS&B survey in 1980 when they were in high school. By linking high school survey data with information collected 35 years later, this new collection offers an exciting opportunity to conduct research on the long-term outcomes of education.

Some preliminary research using the HS&B Midlife Study shows that high school and college experiences continue to play important roles in individuals’ lives into midlife.

 

Education (Grodsky and Doren 2015)

  • Between the ages of 28 and 50, a majority of cohort members (61 percent) enrolled in some sort of formal education, and in the process, they earned higher level degrees. By age 50,
     
    • 12 percent had earned a master’s, graduate, or professional degree, compared with 4 percent at age 28.
       
    • 36 percent had earned a bachelor’s or graduate degree, compared with 27 percent at age 28.
       
    • 36 percent had earned only a high school diploma or less, compared with 54 percent at age 28.
       
  • Gaps in educational attainment by gender, race/ethnicity, and parental education observed in early adulthood remained largely unchanged in midlife, with a notable exception:
     
    • A higher proportion of cohort adults whose parents had higher levels of education enrolled in graduate school between the ages of 28 and 50, which may be related to high school academic achievement (e.g., grades, test scores).

 

Labor Force Participation (Bosky 2019)

  • Men and women who took college preparatory math coursework in high school (i.e., Algebra II or higher) had lower unemployment at midlife, even after controlling for whether they completed a bachelor’s degree. In addition,
     
    • Women who earned higher GPAs were employed at higher rates.
       
    • Men who scored higher on math achievement tests were employed at higher rates.
       
  • At midlife, the percentage of workers who held jobs with low pay and/or no health or retirement benefits was higher for women than for men, even among workers with similar levels of educational attainment. This gender gap was smaller among people who had taken advanced math coursework in high school (i.e., Algebra II or above).
     
  • Across levels of education, higher percentages of women than men experienced economic insecurity at midlife, as indicated by their perceived ability to pay for a large unexpected expense in the near-term. The percentage of women experiencing midlife economic insecurity was lower for those with a college degree than for those without a college degree. Also,
     
    • For people without a college degree, higher math achievement test scores were associated with lower rates of economic insecurity, even after controlling for work, health, and family characteristics at midlife.
       
    • A lower percentage of women who had taken college preparatory math coursework in high school were economically insecure at midlife, regardless of whether they had completed a bachelor’s degree.
       
    • A lower percentage of married women than unmarried women were economically insecure. This gap was largest among women without a college degree.

 

Health

  • Adolescents who took coursework that was more advanced in high school reported better health and physical functioning at midlife (Carroll et al. 2017).
     
  • Earning a bachelor’s degree by age 28 predicted body weight at midlife. This relationship differed by sex (Pattison 2019).
     
  • Mortality risk was higher among the following groups:
     
    • People who had not taken college preparatory math coursework in high school.
       
    • People with more frequent absences from high school. (Warren et al. 2017)
       

Survey data from the HS&B Midlife Study are now available for researchers. In order to protect the privacy of survey respondents, the dataset is available only to researchers who have a restricted-use data license. For more information about the survey, visit https://sites.utexas.edu/hsb/, and for more information on the restricted-use data program, visit https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/licenses.asp.  

 

Funding Acknowledgement

The 2014–2015 HS&B Midlife Study was supported by a combination of government and nongovernment sources, including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Grant 2012-10-27), the Institute for Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education (Grant R305U140001), and the National Science Foundation (Grants HRD1348527 and HRD1348557). It also benefited from direct funding from NORC at the University of Chicago and support provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to the University of Texas at Austin (R24-HD042849), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (P2C-HD047873), and the University of Minnesota (P2C-HH041023).

 

References

Bosky, A.L. (2019). Academic Preparation in High School and Gendered Exposure to Economic Insecurity at Midlife (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/76122/BOSKY-DISSERTATION-2019.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

Carroll, J.M., Muller, C., Grodsky, E., and Warren, J.R. (2017). Tracking Health Inequalities from High School to Midlife. Social Forces, 96(2): 591–628. doi: 10.1093/sf/sox065.

Grodsky, E., and Doren, C. (2015). Coming in to Focus: Education and Stratification at Midlife. Paper presented at the Invited Lecture at Columbia University, March 26, 2015, New York.

Pattison, E. (2019). Educational Stratification and Obesity in Midlife: Considering the Role of Sex, Social Class, and Race/Ethnicity (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/76097/PATTISON-DISSERTATION-2019.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

Warren, J.R., Milesi, C., Grigorian, K., Humphries, M., Muller, C., and Grodsky, E. (2017). Do Inferences About Mortality Rates and Disparities Vary by Source of Mortality Information? Annals of Epidemiology, 27(2): 121–127. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2016.11.003.

 

By Chandra Muller, University of Texas at Austin, and Elise Christopher, NCES