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America's Young Adults: Special Issue, 2014

Enrollment Rates

College participation can be measured by the overall percentage of the typical college-age population (those ages 18–24) enrolled in college. The overall college enrollment rate for young adults ages 18–24 increased from 26 percent in 1980 to 41 percent in 2012—an increase of 15 percentage points.

Indicator Ed2: Enrollment rates of young adults ages 18–24 in degree-granting institutions by gender and race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2012
Enrollment rates of young adults ages 18–24 in degree-granting institutions by gender and race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2012

NOTE: Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian non-institutionalized population. After 2002, data for individual race categories exclude persons identifying as two or more races. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic origin. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey.

  • In 2012, the overall college enrollment rate for White, non-Hispanic young adults ages 18–24 (42 percent) was higher than the rates for their Hispanic (37 percent) and Black, non-Hispanic (36 percent) peers—a pattern that has held since 1980. Despite these differences, overall college enrollment increased over time for young adults in each of these three groups.
  • Between 1980 and 2012, college enrollment increased for both males and females, although the percentage increase over this period was higher for females than for males.
  • In 2012, a higher percentage of White, non-Hispanic females were enrolled in college than their male counterparts (46 vs. 38 percent). Hispanic females were also enrolled in college at a higher rate (42 percent) than were Hispanic males (34 percent). There was no statistically significant difference between Black, non-Hispanic females and males in the percentages who were enrolled in college.

  • Among males in 2012, the percentage of White, non-Hispanic young adults enrolled in college was higher than the percentages for their Black, non-Hispanic and Hispanic counterparts. The same pattern was observed among females.

table icon YAED2 HTML Table