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EDUCATION AT A GLANCE: United States Trails Most Countries in Upward Mobility and High School Graduation Rates, According to OECD Annual Report

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“Education can lift people out of poverty and social exclusion, but to do so we need to break the link between social background and educational opportunity,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

Since 2000, the U.S. high school graduation rate has climbed 9 percentage points to 79 percent, but it continues to trail the 84 percent rate that is the average of the thirty-four member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).[1] Additionally, the percentage of Americans who are attaining or exceeding the level of education reached by their parents is on the decline, according to Education at a Glance 2014, the latest annual report in the OECD’s series.

According to the report, only 30 percent of twenty-five- to sixty-four-year-old non-students in the United States have a higher level of education than their parents (upward mobility)—the fourth-lowest among OECD countries and trailing only Austria, the Czech Republican, and Germany. In Finland, Korea, and the Russian Federation, more than 55 percent of adults fit this characterization.

“Education can lift people out of poverty and social exclusion, but to do so we need to break the link between social background and educational opportunity,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “The biggest threat to inclusive growth is the risk that social mobility could grind to a halt. Increasing access to education for everyone and continuing to improve people’s skills will be essential to long-term prosperity and a more cohesive society.”

Education at a Glance 2014 includes data on the structure, finances, and performance of education systems in the OECD’s thirty-four member countries, as well as a number of partner countries. Included are data on college completion, unemployment and earnings by education level, spending on education, access to early education, teachers’ salaries and working hours, and more.

The complete findings for the United States are available at http://www.oecd.org/edu/United%20States-EAG2014-Country-Note.pdf.


[1] The following countries are members of the OECD: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States.

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