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National Center for Education Statistics

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

New Report on the Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Undergraduate Student Experiences in Spring 2020

NCES recently released a report on the experiences of undergraduate students early in the COVID-19 pandemic. The report uses early release data from the 2019–20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20) to describe how the pandemic disrupted students’ enrollment, housing, and finances in the spring of 2020. It also discusses how institutions helped students with these issues.

NPSAS:20 student surveys started in March 2020, and items about the COVID-19 pandemic were added in April 2020 to collect information about the effects of the pandemic on students’ educational experiences between January 1 and June 30, 2020. These early release data do not include students who answered before the pandemic questions were added. The data show that 87 percent of students had their enrollment disrupted or changed during this time. Students who experienced disruptions may have withdrawn or taken a leave of absence, had an extended school break, had changes made to their study-abroad program, or had classes cancelled or moved online.

Twenty-eight percent of students had a housing disruption or change, and 40 percent had a financial disruption or change. Students who had a housing disruption had to move or had difficulty finding safe and stable housing. Students who had a financial disruption may have lost a job or income or may have had difficulty getting food; they may have also received financial help from their postsecondary institutions.

The report also provides information about the experiences of students with different characteristics. For example, students with Pell Grants had a similar rate of enrollment disruption (87 percent) as those without them (88 percent). Those with Pell Grants had a lower rate of housing disruption (23 percent) than those without them (31 percent). However, they had a higher rate of financial disruption (48 percent) than their peers without Pell Grants (34 percent).


Figure 1. Percentage of undergraduates who experienced enrollment, housing, or financial disruptions or changes at their institution due to the COVID-19 pandemic, by Pell Grant recipient status: Spring 2020

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2019–20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20, preliminary data).


The final NPSAS:20 raw data will be available in late 2022. Sign up for the IES Newsflash to receive announcements about NCES data products.

 

By Tracy Hunt-White

Back to School by the Numbers: 2021–22 School Year

Across the country, students are preparing to head back to school—whether in person, online, or through some combination of the two—for the 2021–22 academic year. Each year, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) compiles a Back-to-School Fast Fact that provides a snapshot of schools and colleges in the United States. Here are a few “by-the-numbers” highlights from this year’s edition.

Note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, projected data were not available for this year’s Fast Fact. Therefore, some of the data presented below were collected in 2020 or 2021, but most of the data were collected before the pandemic began. Data collected in 2020 or 2021 are preliminary and subject to change.

 

 

48.1 million

The number of students who attended public elementary and secondary schools in fall 2020. 

The racial and ethnic profile of public school students includes 22.0 million White students, 13.4 million Hispanic students, 7.2 million Black students, 2.6 million Asian students, 2.2 million students of Two or more races, 0.4 million American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 0.2 million Pacific Islander students.

Additionally, in fall 2017, about 5.7 million students attended private schools.

 

3.7 million

The number of students projected to have graduated from high school in the 2018–19 school year, including 3.3 million students from public schools and 0.4 million students from private schools.

 

43 percent

The percentage of fourth- and eighth-grade students who were enrolled in remote instruction in February 2021.

In comparison, in May 2021, 26 percent of fourth- and eighth-grade students were enrolled in remote instruction.

 

2.3 million

The number of teachers in public schools in fall 2019.

Additionally, in fall 2017, there were 0.5 million teachers in private schools.

 

$13,187

The current expenditure per student in public elementary and secondary schools in the 2018–19 school year.

Total current expenditures in public elementary and secondary schools were $667 billion for the 2018–19 school year.

 

19.6 million

The number of students that attended colleges and universities in fall 2019—lower than the peak of 21.0 million in 2010.

About 5.6 million attended 2-year institutions and 14.0 million students attended 4-year institutions in fall 2019.

 

11.3 million

The number of female postsecondary students in fall 2019.

In comparison, there were 8.4 million male postsecondary students in fall 2019.

 

7.3 million

The number of postsecondary students who were enrolled in any distance education course in fall 2019.

In comparison, there were 12.3 million students who were not enrolled in distance education in fall 2019.

 

Be sure to check out the full Fast Fact to learn more about these and other back-to-school data.

The staff of NCES and of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) hopes our nation’s students, teachers, administrators, school staffs, and families have an outstanding school year!

 

By Megan Barnett and Sarah Hein, AIR

National Spending for Public Schools Increases for the Sixth Consecutive Year in School Year 2018–19

NCES just released a finance tables report, Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: FY19 (NCES 2021-302), which draws from data in the National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS). The results show that spending1 on elementary and secondary education increased in school year 2018–19 (fiscal year [FY] 2019), after adjusting for inflation. This is the sixth consecutive year that year-over-year education spending increased since 2012–13. This increase follows declines in year-over-year spending for the prior 4 years (2009–10 to 2012–13).

Current expenditures per pupil2 for the day-to-day operation of public elementary and secondary schools rose to $13,187 in FY19, an increase of 2.1 percent from FY18, after adjusting for inflation (figure 1).3 Current expenditures per pupil also increased over the previous year in FY18 (by 0.9 percent), in FY17 (by 1.7 percent), in FY16 (by 2.8 percent), in FY15 (by 2.7 percent), and in FY14 (by 1.2 percent). In FY19, education spending was 11.8 percent higher than the lowest point of the Great Recession in FY13 and 6.1 percent higher than spending prior to the Great Recession in FY10.


Figure 1. National inflation-adjusted current expenditures per pupil for public elementary and secondary school districts: FY10 through FY19

NOTE: Spending is reported in constant FY19 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "National Public Education Financial Survey," fiscal years 2010 through 2018 Final Version 2a; and fiscal year 2019, Provisional Version 1a; and Digest of Education Statistics 2019, retrieved January 8, 2021, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d19/tables/dt19_106.70.asp.


Without adjusting for geographic cost differences, current expenditures per pupil ranged from $7,950 in Utah to $24,882 in New York (figure 2). In addition to New York, current expenditures per pupil were highest in the District of Columbia ($22,831), New Jersey ($21,331), Vermont ($21,217), and Connecticut ($21,140). In addition to Utah, current expenditures per pupil were lowest in Idaho ($8,043), Arizona ($8,773), Nevada ($9,126), and Oklahoma ($9,203).


Figure 2. Current expenditures per pupil for public elementary and secondary education, by state: FY19

NOTE: These data are not adjusted for geographic cost differences.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS),” FY19, Provisional Version 1a and “State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education,” school year 2018–19, Provisional Version 1a.


These new NPEFS data offer researchers extensive opportunities to investigate state and national patterns of revenues and expenditures. Explore the report and learn more.


[1] Spending refers to current expenditures. Current expenditures comprise expenditures for the day-to-day operation of schools and school districts for public elementary/secondary education, including expenditures for staff salaries and benefits, supplies, and purchased services. Current expenditures include instruction, instruction-related support services (e.g., social work, health, psychological services), and other elementary/secondary current expenditures but exclude expenditures on capital outlay, other programs, and interest on long-term debt.
[2] Per pupil expenditures are calculated using student membership derived from the State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education. In some states, adjustments are made to ensure consistency between membership and reported fiscal data. More information on these adjustments can be found in the data file documentation at https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/files.asp.
[3] In order to compare spending from one year to the next, expenditures are converted to constant dollars, which adjusts figures for inflation. Inflation adjustments utilize the Consumer Price Index (CPI) published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. For comparability to fiscal education data, NCES adjusts the CPI from a calendar year to a school fiscal year basis (July through June). See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 106.70, retrieved January 8, 2021, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d19/tables/dt19_106.70.asp.

 

By Stephen Q. Cornman NCES; Lei Zhou, Activate Research; and Malia Howell, U.S. Census Bureau

Highlights of 2015–16 and 2016–17 School-Level Finance Data

NCES annually publishes comprehensive data on the finances of public elementary and secondary schools through the Common Core of Data (CCD). For many years, these data have been released at the state level through the National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS) and at the school district level through the Local Education Agency (School District) Finance Survey (F-33).

Policymakers, researchers, and the public have long voiced concerns about the equitable distribution of school funding within and across districts. School-level finance data provide reliable and unbiased measures that can be utilized to compare how resources are distributed among schools within districts.

Education spending data are now available for 15 states[1] at the school level through the School-Level Finance Survey (SLFS), which NCES has been conducting annually since 2014.[2] In November 2018, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved changes to the SLFS wherein variables have been added to make the SLFS directly analogous to the F-33 Survey and to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provisions on reporting expenditures per pupil at the school and district levels.

Below are some key findings from the recently released NCES report Highlights of School-Level Finance Data: Selected Findings From the School-Level Finance Survey (SLFS) School Years 2015–16 (FY 16) and 2016–17 (FY 17).

 

Eight of the 15 states participating in the SLFS are able to report school-level expenditure data requested by the survey for a high percentage of their schools.

The initial years of the SLFS have consistently demonstrated that most states can report detailed school‑level spending data for the vast majority of their schools. In school year (SY) 2016–17 (FY 2017), most states participating in the SLFS (8 out of 15) reported school-level finance data for at least 95 percent of their schools (figure 1). With the exception of New Jersey,[3] all states were able to report at least partial SLFS finance data for more than 78 percent of their schools, ranging from 79 percent of schools in Colorado to 99 percent of schools in Oklahoma. In addition, the percentage of students covered by SLFS reporting was more than 99 percent in 9 of the 15 participating states. 


Figure 1. Percentage of students covered and percentage of schools with fiscal data reported in the School-Level Finance Survey (SLFS), by participating state: FY 2017


 

The SLFS can be used to evaluate school-level expenditure data based on various descriptive school characteristics.

The SLFS allows data users to not only view comparable school-level spending data but also evaluate differences in school-level spending based on a variety of school characteristics. In the report, SY 2016–17 (FY 2017) SLFS data were evaluated by charter status and urbanicity. Key findings from this evaluation include the following:

  • Median teacher salaries[4] in charter schools were lower than median teacher salaries in noncharter schools in all 7 states that met the standards for reporting teacher salaries for both charter and noncharter schools (figure 2).
  • School expenditures were often higher in cities and suburbs than in towns and rural areas. Median teacher salaries, for example, were highest for schools in either cities or suburbs in 9 of the 10 states that met the standards for reporting teacher salaries in each of the urbanicities (city, suburb, town, and rural) (figure 3).  

Figure 2. Median teacher salary for operational public elementary and secondary schools, by school charter status and reporting state: FY 2017


Figure 3. Median teacher salary for operational public elementary and secondary schools, by school urbanicity and reporting state: FY 2017


Median technology‑related expenditures per pupil were also highest for schools in either cities or suburbs in 9 of the 11 states that met the standards for reporting technology-related expenditures in each of the urbanicities, with schools in cities reporting the highest median technology-related expenditures per pupil in 6 of those states.

 

The SLFS can be used to evaluate and compare school-level expenditure data by various poverty indicators.

The report also evaluates and compares school-level spending by school poverty indicators, such as Title I eligibility and school neighborhood poverty level. Key findings from this evaluation include the following:

  • In SY 2016–17 (FY 2017), median teacher salaries were slightly lower for Title I eligible schools than for non-Title I eligible schools in 7 of the 8 states where standards were met for reporting both Title I eligible and non-Title I eligible schools. However, median personnel salaries per pupil were slightly lower for Title I eligible schools than for non-Title I eligible schools in only 2 of the 8 states where reporting standards were met.    
  • Median personnel salaries per pupil for SY 2016–17 were higher for schools in high‑poverty neighborhoods than for schools in low-poverty neighborhoods in 7 of the 12 states where standards were met for reporting school personnel salaries.

 

To learn more about these and other key findings from the SY 2015–16 and 2016–17 SLFS data collections, read the full report. The corresponding data files for these collections will be released later this year.


[1] The following 15 states participated in the SY 2015–16 and 2016–17 SLFS: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wyoming.

[2] Spending refers to “current expenditures,” which are expenditures for the day-to-day operation of schools and school districts for public elementary/secondary education. For the SY 2015–16 and 2016–17 data collections referenced in this blog, the SLFS did not collect complete current expenditures; the current expenditures collected for those years included expenditures most typically accounted for at the school level, such as instructional staff salaries, student support services salaries, instructional staff support services salaries, school administration salaries, and supplies and purchased services. As of SY 2017–18, the SLFS was expanded to collect complete current expenditures.

[3] In New Jersey, detailed school-level finance reporting is required for only its “Abbott” districts, which comprised only 31 of the state’s 699 school districts in SY 2016–17.

[4] “Median teacher salaries” are defined as the median of the schools’ average teacher salary. A school’s average teacher salary is calculated as the teacher salary expenditures reported for the school divided by the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers at the school. Note that this calculation differs from calculating the median of salaries across all teachers at the school, as the SLFS does not collect or report salary data at the teacher level.

 

By Stephen Cornman, NCES