Record numbers earning college degree

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(Moneywatch) A new analysis of U.S. Census data reveals that a record number of Americans are earning a bachelor's degree.

For the first time, a third of the nation's 25- to 29-year-olds have completed at least a bachelor's degree, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center. In comparison, just 12 percent of people in that age group earned a bachelor's degree 40 years ago.

And there is more good news: 63 percent of Americans in this group have completed at least some college, also a record. Meanwhile, 90 percent of Americans from ages 25 to 29 have completed high school, versus 78 percent in 1971.

How different groups are faring

College completion, which is up sharply in the past five years, is now at record levels among both men and women, blacks, whites, Hispanics, and both foreign-born and native-born Americans.

Asian-Americans have the highest rate of completing college, with 60 percent obtaining a bachelor's degree. Forty percent of white Americans have earned abachelor's degree, compared with 23 percent for blacks and 15 percent for Hispanics.

Pew analysts speculated that the bad economy and the widespread understanding that college is increasingly important for financial security are fueling the rise in college attendance and graduation.

Who is graduating from college

Other findings, according to Pew:

 - Educational attainment by young women has grown steadily over the past 40 years and reached their highest levels in 2012, with 37 percent of women completing at least a bachelor's degree

- Young men have made less progress in recent decades, with 30 percent earning bachelor's degrees in 2012, versus 28 percent in 1976

- Among Americans born in the U.S., 35 percent have earned a bachelor's degree

- Among young immigrants to the U.S., 28 percent received a bachelor's degree this year, up slightly from 2 percent three years ago

 - While grad rates have been stagnant for years, 88 percent of males completed high school in 2012, a record percentage

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