Condition of Education 2016 Report, Co-authored by AIR Experts, Finds Racial Disparities Among Bachelor’s Degree Recipients Increasing

Washington, D.C. — The gap between white and black adults ages 25 to 29 who earned at least a bachelor’s degree widened from 13 to 22 percentage points between 1995 and 2015. Meanwhile, the size of the white-Hispanic gap at this level widened from 20 to 27 points, according to The Condition of Education 2016, a federal report of education trends.

The report, issued by the National Center for Education Statistics with significant input from researchers at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), found that the gaps widened over the two decades when the percentage of white 25- to 29-year-olds who had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher rose from 29 to 43 percent.

AIR experts conducted statistical analysis and testing, wrote key findings, and developed many of the indicators in the report. Since 2000, AIR staff have helped write and produce the report, which the Department of Education submits to Congress.

Mirroring previous reports, the 2016 report covers population characteristics, participation in education, elementary and secondary education, and postsecondary education. But the report also spotlights indicators on three issues — (1) relationships among early learning behaviors, early academic gains, and family socioeconomic status; (2) differences in postsecondary enrollment among high school completers; and (3) differences in post-bachelor’s employment outcomes by sex and race/ethnicity.

Key findings from this year’s report include:

  • In 2014, roughly one out of five school-age children were in families living in poverty.
  • Between fall 2003 and fall 2013, the number of white students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools decreased from 28.4 million to 25.2 million — from 59 to 50 percent. In contrast, the number of Hispanic students enrolled rose from 9.0 million to 12.5 million, increasing from 19 to 25 percent.
  • In 2013–14, 6.5 million children and youth ages 3–21 — about 13 percent of all public school students — were receiving special education services.
  • The pupil-to-teacher ratio in public schools declined from 15.9 in 2003 to 15.3 in 2008. In the years after 2008, the pupil-to-teacher ratio rose, reaching 16.1 in 2013. Of the 6.2 million staff members in public elementary and secondary schools in fall 2013, half were teachers.
  • First-time kindergartners who demonstrated such learning behaviors as paying attention in class and working independently more often in the beginning of the school year tended to make greater gains than others in reading, mathematics, and science between kindergarten and second grade. The positive relationships between initial learning behaviors and academic gains in reading, mathematics, and science were more pronounced for students from lower socioeconomic status (SES) households than for students from higher SES households.
  • In fall 2013, among high school graduates who had been ninth-graders in fall 2009, three-quarters were enrolled at postsecondary institutions. Some 14 percent were taking postsecondary classes without enrolling in a degree program,
    3 percent were enrolled in occupational certificate programs, 25 percent were enrolled in associate’s degree programs, and 32 percent were enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs.
  • In 2014, the median earnings of young adults with a bachelor’s degree ($49,900) were 66 percent higher than the median earnings of young adult high school completers ($30,000). The median earnings of young adult high school completers were 20 percent higher than the median earnings of those with no high school credential ($25,000).

The Condition of Education 2016 can be found on the National Center for Education Statistics website.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


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