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United States
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United States
Overview of the education system (EAG 2013)
  • The United States ranks 5th in tertiary attainment among 25-64 year-olds (42% in 2011, OECD average: 31%). At the same time, a number of countries have now surpassed the United States in the percentage of younger adults with a tertiary attainment. In 2011, 43% of 25-34 year-old Americans had attained a tertiary education - above the OECD average of 39%, but far behind Korea, with a 64% tertiary attainment rate among this age group. The United States ranks 12th among 37 OECD and partner countries in this measure.
  • The difference in unemployment rates between those with low levels of education and those with high levels of education is stark. People without an upper secondary education were hit hardest by the recession. The unemployment rate for people who had not attained upper secondary education in the United States increased by more than 6 percentage points between 2008 and 2011, reaching 16.2% in 2011 (OECD average: increase by less than 4 percentage points to 12.6% during the same period). In the same period, unemployment rates among US adults with a tertiary degree increased by 2.5 percentage points, up to 4.9%. Across OECD countries, the rate rose an average of 1.5 percentage points to 4.8%.
  • The proportion of young adults who were neither employed nor in education or training (NEET) slightly increased during the crisis in the United States. The proportion of 15-29 year-olds who were NEET increased by 2.1 percentage points between 2008 and 2011, on average across OECD countries. During the same period, the United States recorded an increase of 1.3 percentage points in the proportion of NEETs. In 2011, 15.9% of American young adults were NEET compared with the OECD average of 15.8%.
  • Public spending on education fell slightly during the crisis, but overall expenditure remains relatively high. While public investment in education for all levels of education combined increased by an average of 5% among OECD countries between 2008 and 2010, it dropped by 1% in the United States. In 2010, the United States spent, however, 7.3% of its GDP on all levels of education combined. This is well above the OECD average (6.3%). Across all levels of education, annual per-student spending by educational institutions in the United States (USD 15 171) is higher than in any other country.
  • Teachers' salaries have only risen modestly over the past decade and they are not competitive with the salaries of similarly educated workers. Based on 2011 data, on average, a primary school teacher in the United States can expect to earn only 66% of the salary of the average tertiary-educated worker in another field (the OECD average is 82%); a lower secondary school teacher can expect to earn 67% of the salary of his or her tertiary-educated peer (the OECD average is 85%); and an upper secondary school teacher can expect to earn 70% of what a tertiary-educated peer earns (the OECD average is 89%).
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    The following list displays indicators for which your selected country shows the highest and lowest values among countries. The list can be sorted by level of education or by age group. All rankings are calculated including available data from OECD and partner countries. Find out more about the methodology here.

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    Educational outcomes

    The level of upper secondary attainment among 25-64 year-olds is one of the highest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (89.3 %, rank 4/40 ) Download Indicator

    The level of upper secondary attainment among 55-64 year-olds is one of the highest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (89.6 %, rank 2/35 ) Download Indicator

    The level of tertiary attainment among 25-64 year-olds is one of the highest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (42.4 %, rank 5/36 ) Download Indicator

    Participation in education

    In United States, the percentage of today's young people expected to graduate from upper secondary education during their lifetimes is one of the low among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (77.4 %, rank 22/29 ) Download Indicator

    In United States, the percentage of today's young men expected to graduate from upper secondary education is one of the lowest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (74.1 %, rank 22/29 ) Download Indicator

    In United States, the percentage of today's women expected to graduate from upper secondary education is one of the lowest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (81 %, rank 21/29 ) Download Indicator

    The change in the number of foreign students in tertiary education in United States between 2005 and 2011 is one of the smallest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (120.2 %, rank 30/34 ) Download Indicator

    Resources for education

    Annual expenditure per tertiary student is one of the highest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (25576 USD Equivalent, rank 1/33 ) Download Indicator

    Annual expenditure per student from primary to tertiary level is one of the highest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (15171 USD Equivalent, rank 1/32 ) Download Indicator

    Annual expenditure per pre-primary pupil is one of the highest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (10020 USD Equivalent, rank 3/32 ) Download Indicator

    Annual expenditure per primary student is one of the highest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (11193 USD Equivalent, rank 4/34 ) Download Indicator

    Annual expenditure per secondary student is one of the highest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (12464 USD Equivalent, rank 5/34 ) Download Indicator

    Annual expenditure per student, for core and ancillary services, from primary to below-tertiary institutions is one of the highest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (11826 USD Equivalent, rank 4/35 ) Download Indicator

    In United States, cumulative expenditure per tertiary student is one of the highest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (81076 USD Equivalent, rank 4/20 ) Download Indicator

    The change in expenditure between 2005 and 2010 per student at the tertiary level is comparatively small. (95 Index, rank 27/31 ) Download Indicator

    The change in the number of students between 2005 and 2010 at the tertiary level is comparatively large. (123 Index, rank 10/31 ) Download Indicator

    In United States private expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP is comparatively high. (2.2 %, rank 3/29 ) Download Indicator

    In United States the change in expenditure between 2008 and 2010 on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP is comparatively small. (100 Index, rank 25/30 ) Download Indicator

    In United States the change in public expenditure between 2008 and 2010 on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP is comparatively small. (99 Index, rank 26/31 ) Download Indicator

    The share of private expenditure on pre-primary education is one of the largest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (29.1 %, rank 5/28 ) Download Indicator

    In United States the change in public expenditure between 2008 and 2010 on education including subsidies to households is comparatively small. (102 Index, rank 24/30 ) Download Indicator

    The change in total public expenditure for all services, including education, between 2008 and 2010 is one of the largest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (108 Index, rank 9/34 ) Download Indicator

    The change in public expenditure on education as a percentage of total public expenditure between 2008 and 2010 is one of the smallest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (94 Index, rank 27/30 ) Download Indicator

    Public funding to households and other private entities in tertiary education is one of the highest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (27.7 %, rank 9/32 ) Download Indicator

    Teachers

    The ratio of students to teaching staff at the lower secondary level is especially high. (15 Students, rank 9/32 ) Download Indicator

    After 15 years of experience, a lower secondary teacher can expect to have one of the highest salaries among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (45950 USD Equivalent, rank 9/32 ) Download Indicator

    After 15 years of experience, an upper secondary teacher can expect to have one of the highest salaries among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (49414 USD Equivalent, rank 7/32 ) Download Indicator

    After 15 years of experience, a primary teacher can expect to have one of the highest salaries among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (46130 USD Equivalent, rank 9/33 ) Download Indicator

    The ratio of pre-primary teachers' salaries to earnings for full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education is one of the lowest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (0.65 Ratio, rank 16/22 ) Download Indicator

    The ratio of primary teachers' salaries to earnings for full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education is one of the lowest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (0.66 Ratio, rank 21/27 ) Download Indicator

    The ratio of lower secondary teachers' salaries to earnings for full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education is one of the lowest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (0.67 Ratio, rank 21/27 ) Download Indicator

    The ratio of upper secondary teachers' salaries to earnings for full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education is one of the lowest among OECD and G20 countries with available data. (0.7 Ratio, rank 21/27 ) Download Indicator

    The number of days of instruction in a school year in pre-primary school is especially small. (180 Days, rank 23/30 ) Download Indicator

    The number of hours pre-primary teachers spend teaching in public institutions is comparatively large in United States. (1090 Hours, rank 10/29 ) Download Indicator

    Economic and social outcomes

    The employment rate among 25-64 year-old individuals with a tertiary education is comparatively low. (80 %, rank 27/36 ) Download Indicator

    The employment rate among individuals with an upper secondary or a post-secondary non-tertiary education is comparatively low. (67.1 %, rank 31/36 ) Download Indicator

    The employment rate among men with an upper secondary or a post-secondary non-tertiary education is comparatively low. (71.8 %, rank 36/36 ) Download Indicator

    The employment rate among men with a tertiary education is comparatively low. (84.7 %, rank 31/36 ) Download Indicator

    The employment rate among women with a tertiary education is comparatively low. (75.8 %, rank 27/36 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of male full-time earners among all earners aged 55 to 64 with below upper secondary education is comparatively high. (67.2 %, rank 9/14 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of female full-time earners among all earners aged 55 to 64 with below upper secondary education is comparatively high. (52.9 %, rank 5/13 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of male full-time earners among all earners aged 55 to 64 with upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education is comparatively high. (76.2 %, rank 8/14 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of female full-time earners among all earners aged 55 to 64 with upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education is comparatively high. (63.9 %, rank 4/14 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of male full-time earners among all earners aged 55 to 64 with tertiary education is comparatively high. (78.7 %, rank 8/14 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of female full-time earners among all earners aged 55 to 64 with tertiary education is comparatively high. (67.5 %, rank 5/14 ) Download Indicator

    Compared with other OECD and G20 countries, the earnings of men without an upper secondary education are relatively low compared to those of men with an upper secondary education. (64 Index, rank 16/17 ) Download Indicator

    Compared with other OECD and G20 countries, the earnings of women without an upper secondary education are relatively low compared to those of women with an upper secondary education. (58 Index, rank 16/18 ) Download Indicator

    Compared with other OECD and G20 countries, the earnings of adults without an upper secondary education are relatively low compared to those of adults with an upper secondary or a post-secondary non-tertiary education. (64 Index, rank 16/18 ) Download Indicator

    Compared with other OECD and G20 countries, the difference in earnings between men with a tertiary education and those with an upper secondary education is quite high. (182 Index, rank 7/18 ) Download Indicator

    Compared with other OECD and G20 countries, the difference in earnings between women with a tertiary education and those with an upper secondary education is quite high. (181 Index, rank 6/18 ) Download Indicator

    Compared with other OECD and G20 countries, the proportional difference in earnings between adults with a tertiary education and those with an upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education is quite high. (177 Index, rank 5/18 ) Download Indicator


    General findings
    • Across almost all OECD countries, upper secondary attainment is the norm. On average, 75% of 25-64 year-olds and 82% of 25-34 year-olds had reached this level of attainment in 2011. However, despite notable strides, some countries remain far below the OECD average in upper secondary attainment. For example, in Mexico, Portugal and Turkey, less than 20% of the population had attained upper secondary education as the highest level of education in 2011.
    • Vocational education and training is a major factor in the educational attainment of people in many countries. In 2011, a vocational upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education was the highest level of attainment for more than 50% of 25-64 year-olds in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia. However, in these countries, people tend to leave education after attaining upper secondary qualifications. In an additional 10 OECD countries, a vocational upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment was the highest educational level for more than 30% of 25-64 year-olds.
    • Tertiary attainment levels have increased considerably over the last decades. On average across OECD countries, the proportion of 25-64 year-olds that hold a tertiary qualification has increased by 4.2% per year since 2000. However, even though tertiary attainment rates have increased in recent years, less than 35% of both men and women had attained a tertiary education in 2011.
    • If current tertiary attainment rates among 25-34 year-olds are maintained, the proportion of adults in France, Ireland, Japan and Korea who have a tertiary education will surpass that of other OECD countries, while the proportion in Austria, Brazil and Germany will fall further behind other OECD countries.
    • Significant progress has been achieved in reducing the gender gap in educational attainment and women have surpassed men in many aspects of education in OECD countries. Among 30-34 year-olds, more than 40% of women had a tertiary education in 2011, surpassing the rate of men with that level of education by about 8 percentage points. Tertiary attainment rates among young women have grown strongly in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, where 50% or more of younger women in that age group had attained tertiary education in 2011.
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    • Across OECD countries, employment rates are highest among people who have a tertiary education; and these individuals are also most likely to be employed full time.
    • Unemployment rates are nearly three times higher among individuals who do not have an upper secondary education (13% on average across OECD countries in 2011) than among those who have a tertiary education (5% in 2011).
    • Individuals who have at least an upper secondary education have a greater chance of being employed than those without that level of education.
    • Gender differences in employment rates are smallest among tertiary-educated individuals and largest among men and women who do not have an upper secondary education.
    • In all OECD countries, adults with tertiary education earn more than adults with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education, who, in turn, earn more than adults with a below upper secondary education.
    • On average across OECD countries, the difference in earnings between younger and older workers increases with educational attainment, benefitting more educated older workers. The earnings premium for tertiary-educated 55-64 year-olds is generally larger than that for all tertiary educated workers: in 2011, on average, the earnings differential between these two groups increased by 16 percentage points.
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    • In 2011, on average across OECD countries, 16% of 15-29 year-olds were neither employed nor in education or training (NEET) (7% unemployed and 9% inactive), as were 8% of 15-19 year-olds (2.7% unemployed and 5.8% inactive), and 20% of 25-29 year-olds (8% unemployed and 12% inactive).
    • In Chile, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Turkey, more than 20% of 15-29 year-olds were NEET in 2011 compared to less than 10% in Austria, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Unemployment levels are particularly worrying in Greece (14.6% in 2011) and Spain (17.0% in 2011), as is inactivity among young people in those countries (7.1% and 7.5%, respectively, in 2011).
    • On average across OECD countries in 2011, 18% of 15-29 year-old women were NEET (12% inactive and 6% unemployed) as were 13% of 15-29 year-old men (7% unemployed and 6% inactive).
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    • In 2010, OECD countries spent an average of 6.3% of their GDP on educational institutions. Out of the 33 countries for which data were available, this proportion exceeded 7% in Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Korea, New Zealand, Norway and the United States. Only the Czech Republic, Hungary Italy, the Russian Federation and the Slovak Republic spent less than 5% of their GDP on educational institutions.
    • On average, OECD countries spent USD 9 313 annually per student from primary through tertiary education in 2010: USD 7 974 per primary student, USD 9 014 per secondary student and USD 13 528 per tertiary student. Spending per pre-primary student amounted to USD 6 762 per year.
    • While there was no clear global trend in how the proportion of public expenditure on education evolved during the economic crisis, in 14 out of the 30 countries with available data, public expenditure on education grew at a faster rate than public expenditure on all other services between 2008 and 2010.
    • Public funding accounted for 84% of all funds for educational institutions on average in OECD countries in 2010, and between 2000 and 2010, public funding increased for all levels of education combined. However, more pressure has been put on households to share the cost of education, and private funding increased at an even greater rate in more than three-quarters of countries. The share of public and private investment in education differs among education levels. Tertiary institutions and, to a lesser extent, pre-primary institutions obtain the largest proportions of funds from private sources (32% and 18%, respectively, in 2010).
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    • The ratio of students to teaching staff varies across OECD countries and levels of education. At the primary level, there were more than 15 students for every teacher on average in OECD countries in 2011. In most countries, the student-teacher ratio decreases between primary and lower secondary school, despite an increase in class size. In 2011, there were, on average, about 14 students per teacher at the secondary level. At the tertiary level, there were, on average, about 16 students per teacher in OECD countries.
    • The number of teaching hours per teacher in public schools in 2011 averaged 790 hours per year in primary education, 709 hours in lower secondary education, and 664 hours in upper secondary education.
    • Teachers' statutory salaries vary widely across countries, but often increase with the level of education. In 2011, the statutory salaries of teachers with at least 15 years of experience averaged USD 36 135 at the pre-primary level, USD 38 136 at the primary level, USD 39 934 at the lower secondary level, and USD 41 665 at the upper secondary level. Between 2000 and 2011, teachers' salaries increased in real terms in most countries.
    • On average in OECD countries, pre-primary school teachers' salaries in 2011 amounted to 80% of full-time, full-year earnings of tertiary-educated adults working in different occupations. Primary school teachers' salaries amounted to 82% of that income, lower secondary school teachers' salaries amounted to 85% of that benchmark, and upper secondary school teachers' salaries amounted to 89% of those earnings.
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    Note: These values should be interpreted with care since they are influenced by countries' specific contexts and trade-offs. In education, there is often no simple most- or least-efficient model. For instance, the share of private expenditure in education must be read against other measures designed to mitigate inequities, such as loans and grants; longer learning time is an opportunity to convey more and better content to students, but may hinder investments in other important areas. If you want further information on the nature of different variables, please take the time to read the analysis and contextual information, available at the website for each publication.
    All rankings for individual variables are compiled on the basis of OECD and G20 countries for which data are available. The OECD average includes only OECD countries which are listed here: http://www.oecd.org/about/membersandpartners/

    For additional notes, please refer to annexes in the list of links below the introductory country profile text.