The United States is one of the world leaders in tertiary education and educational attainment, important indicators in assessing the social mobility and poverty reduction. The US ranks fourth worldwide by enrollment in tertiary education and by proportion of the population with at least a tertiary education, according to the World Bank (2013). The US enrollment rates in tertiary education also exceed the OECD average. The US may, however, be repeating educational history. Enrollment in tertiary education has been declining since 2011, similar to the decline recorded from the mid-1990s through 2000 when the gross enrollment rates declined from 78 to 68 percent before rebounding to 95.3 percent in 2011.
While US enrollment rates in secondary education are only slightly lower than in other OECD countries, primary and pre-primary (preschool) enrollments show a greater deviation at 4.2 and 12 percentage points, respectively. Europe, in contrast, generally exceeds the OECD member average in pre-primary enrollments. Pre-primary enrollment is an important measure because of its relationship to better school performance overall during a student's educational career, based on studies from the OECD.
Educational attainment of adult populations vary greatly across US States, demonstrating a correlation with metropolitan centers of business and education and areas with higher historic investments in education. In Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington D.C. more than 35 percent of the population 25 years old and older has a bachelor's or higher degree. The least educated states for the same population set are Mississippi (20.6%) and West Virginia (18.2%).
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