Educational Attainment: An Introduction
Educational attainment is the highest degree of education that a person has completed in a lifetime. Educational attainment depends on many environmental, social, and genetic factors.
The United States Census Bureau collects data and maintains records on the educational attainment of people. This data is derived through questions like “What is the highest degree or level of school completed?”. Separate questions are used to determine any other educational certificates or licenses earned by an individual. Schooling, 12th grade without a diploma, high school diploma, GED or alternative credential, some college credit, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctorate, or other professional degrees beyond bachelors are levels of education completed by a person. The field of degree is also included in this survey.
Here is a list of education levels and the percentage of people who fall in the bracket as of 2018. The data is from the United States Census Bureau.
High School diploma - 89.80%
College level - 61.28%
Bachelor’s degree - 45.16%
Professional degree (master’s degree) - 13.04%
Doctorate - 2.03%
Importance Of Educational Attainment
Education directly affects the income level of a person. The average income of a male high school dropout is $30,065. The average income of a man with a bachelor’s degree is $67,399, and that of a male with a doctorate is $101,126
When everyone in the world has the same access to education and achieves similar educational attainment, it balances out gaps and gives everyone an equal chance of growing in life. According to David F. Labaree, education gives people credentials that are independent of their social, political, and economic backgrounds.
Health and Standard of Living
Studies suggest that as socio-economic gaps grew among people with high and low educational attainment, health disparities also grew. Right now, scientists are identifying clear patterns between low educational attainment and poor health.
People with less education face early mortality rates and a variety of health complications.
Another article also concluded that Americans with less than 12 years of formal education ended up with lower life expectancy than those who completed school and a bachelor’s degree.
Economic development largely depends on human capital. The higher the educational attainment of citizens, the better will be the growth rate of the country. Countries with consistently high literacy rates develop faster economically.
Genetics And Its Influence On Educational Attainment
While non-genetic influences play a major role in increasing/decreasing educational attainment, studies mention that genetics may cause up to a 20% variation in this trait among individuals.
The TBR1 Gene
The _TBR1 gene (T-box, brain, 1 gene) helps produce a type of transcription protein that is important during embryo development. This protein also controls the movement of neurons and plays a role in brain development.
Changes or mutations in the TBR1 gene have been found in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
rs4500960 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the TBR1 gene. This SNP is located on chromosome 2. The T allele of this SNP is associated with higher levels of educational attainment when compared to the C allele.
The ZSWIM6 Gene
The ZSWIM6 gene (Zinc Finger SWIM-Type Containing 6 gene) helps produce the ZSWIM6 protein. Abnormal levels of the protein may cause neurodevelopmental disorders and autistic traits.
rs61160187 is an SNP in the ZSWIM6 gene. This SNP is located on chromosome 5. The A allele of this SNP is associated with higher levels of educational attainment when compared to the G allele.
Non-genetic Influences That Affect Educational Attainment
Socio-Economic Status (SES)
Socio-economic status is a measure of a family’s social and economic position. Families are usually placed in three categories - high, middle, and low depending on their income and occupation.
According to a popular 2009 study on child psychology, children who are from low socio-economic statuses have behavioral problems related to learning. The schools situated in areas with low SES also offer sub-par educational standards. All these results in SES affecting a child’s educational attainment.
Children from homes where parents are actively involved in the child’s academic performance achieve higher educational attainment. Children with such involved parents end up getting more degrees and do better career-wise too.
A lot of factors involving the home environment play a role in determining the educational development of a child. Here are few important factors that make a difference in a child’s educational attainment:
- How responsive the parents were
- How many books did the family own
- How many learning simulation toys the kids had access to
- Were the children hugged, kissed, and loved?
- Were the children scolded, spanked?
- How often the children got out of the house
Children with and without learning disabilities have different levels of educational attainments. Studies point to the fact that a very small percentage of children with learning disabilities manage to finish high school when compared to children without learning disabilities.
People in developed countries manage to achieve higher levels of educational attainment when compared to those in developing and underdeveloped countries. The number of individuals who have never enrolled in a school in regions like Central Arica, South Asia, and West Africa is much higher than in regions like South America, Europe, and Central Asia.
Recommendations To Improve Educational Attainment
A balanced diet is important for an individual’s overall health and well-being. Without proper nutrition, the child may not be healthy and this can lead to reduced cognitive ability, poor short-term memory, and lower I.Q. Early childhood nutrition including breastfeeding is found to have an impact on the cognitive abilities of a child.
Identifying Different Selectivity Levels
A book titled ‘Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities’ talks about how students in public universities find it difficult to complete their education. A particular section of the book mentions identifying different selectivity levels in students. This means, instead of colleges and schools trying to increase their graduation rate, effort must be taken to ensure students choose the kind, of course, they have a better chance of graduating from.
Offering Online Education
Offering education through online courses can increase educational attainment levels. When students are offered flexible studying modes, it brings down the cost of education and improves student enrollment and completion of courses.
Making Education More Affordable
A majority of students drop out of high-school or college courses because of increased expenses and tuition fees. Some of the below strategies can help prevent this.
- Improving state financial aid programs
- Maintaining predictable tuition fees
- Offering full funding for students from low Socio-economic Statuses
Support Programs For Struggling Students
Apart from the inability to afford tuition fees, students drop out of school/college for the below reasons too.
- Bored and not interested in school/college
- No motivation to attend school/college
- Substance abuse habits
- Bad earlier school experience
When there are support programs to handle these issues, they can encourage students to re-enroll themselves back to school or college or complete a course they had given up halfway through.
- Educational attainment is the highest degree of education that a person has completed in their lifetime.
- Educational attainment affects a person’s income levels, career choices, health, and the country’s economic development.
- Changes or variations in the TBR1, ZSWIM6, ITPR3, and LHFPL3 genes all influence a person’s ability to achieve educational attainment.
- A person’s Socio-Economic Status (SES), parental involvement, home environment, and geographical location can all make a difference in the highest degree of education a person completes.
- Offering flexible education modes, making education more affordable, offering support systems for struggling students, and matching a student’s abilities to the right course can all improve the level of educational attainment.
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