September 4, 2013

Among recent high school grads, Hispanic college enrollment rate surpasses that of whites

A new U.S. Census Bureau report shows that after several years of gains, college enrollments in the U.S. fell between 2011 and 2012. But for one group—Hispanics—college enrollments were up, reflecting Hispanic population growth along with a growing share of young Latinos prepared for college. The new Census Bureau data also shows Hispanic students reached other milestones in 2012, continuing recent upward trends in educational attainment and college attendance.

FT-hispanic-enrollment-011. For the first time, a greater share of Hispanic recent high school graduates are enrolled in college than whites. College enrollment rates among 18- to 24-year old Hispanics who had completed high school continued their upward march in 2012. According to the Census Bureau, 49% of young Hispanic high school graduates were enrolled in college. By comparison, 47% of white non-Hispanic high school graduates were enrolled in college. These findings reflect those of a May Pew Research Center report that showed the share of Hispanic high school graduates enrolled in college immediately after high school surpassed whites in 2012.

While the share of recent Hispanic high school graduates enrolled in college has surpassed that of whites, the same is not true among all young people ages 18 to 24. Because Hispanics have a higher high school dropout rate than whites, the share of all Hispanics ages 18 to 24 in college lags that of whites – 37.5% among Hispanics compared with 42.1% among whites.

FT-hispanic-enrollment-022. The Hispanic high school dropout rate continues to fall. The share of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 who have not completed high school and were not enrolled in school fell to a record low of 15% in 2012. That was less than half of the 32% rate in 2000. Overall, the Hispanic dropout rate is falling more quickly than any other racial or ethnic group, resulting in a closing of the gap between Hispanics and blacks, white non-Hispanics and Asians. Overall, 8% of all young adults ages 18 to 24 had not completed high school and were not enrolled in school.

3. The number of 18- to 24-year-old Hispanics enrolled in college increased by 324,000 students between 2011 and 2012, marking the third straight year of increases. The number of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college has reached a new high—2.4 million—and has been growing since 2009. By contrast, the number of non-Hispanics enrolled in college fell between 2011 and 2012. Overall, Hispanics make up 19% of all college students ages 18 to 24, up from 12% in 2008.

FT-hispanic-enrollment-034. Hispanics now make up one-fourth of all public school students—a new demographic milestone. According to the Census Bureau, one out of every four public school students nationwide in October 2012 was Hispanic. The Hispanic share varies across different school levels. For example, among nursery public school students, the Hispanic share stood at 29%; among public school kindergarten students, 27% are Hispanic; and among elementary school students, 25% are Hispanic. Only among public high school students is the Hispanic share (23%) below one-quarter.

Despite these recent milestones, Latinos continue to lag other groups when it comes to earning a bachelor’s degree. In 2012, 14.5% of Latinos ages 25 and older had earned one. By contrast, 51% of Asians, 34.5% of whites and 21.2% of blacks had earned a bachelor’s degree. Hispanic college students are also less likely than whites to enroll in a four-year college, attend a selective college, and enroll full-time.

Even so, education is important to Hispanics. Today, a record share of Hispanic young people are prepared for college, Latino voters say education is a top issue, and Latinos are more likely than the general public to say a college degree as key to life success.

Topics: Education, School Enrollment, Educational Attainment, College, Hispanic/Latino Demographics

  1. Photo of Mark Hugo Lopez

    is director of Hispanic research at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Richard Fry

    is a senior researcher focusing on economics and education at Pew Research Center.


  1. Sharleen Maldonado3 years ago

    Very good stuff, but still the same battle even since 1973 mold breakage at Census and HUD…a break-out of M/F is essential on education profile, and the confusion about data as represented for white or race is a slippery slope, I know. However, it seems an effort to set up a clarification effort, even speculative, for ethnic identification for purposes of understanding the regional profile of the southwest, for which Mexico is the mother country. In 1973 the hispanic female did not even show up in the census education profiles because women leaders in NY argued that would dull the feminist effort. Just suggesting, but still thrilled with the comprehensive nature of the PEW effort. Proud of you.

  2. Eduardo A.4 years ago

    Hi Mark and Richard! This data is all great! I’ve also found a few of your other articles related to education and they are just fascinating. Is there or have you created a chart showing trends in education amongst Hispanic people and a post-secondary education over the last decade (or from the last census to the second to last census)? Additionally, what about the rate of 1st generation Hispanic/Latino students attending college or having received a bachelor’s compared to 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanic/Latino students? Is there any data on this available?

    1. Richard Fry4 years ago

      Thanks Eduardo, glad you found the blog of help. Yes, we have published trends on the educational attainment of Hispanics. About a year ago we published the most recent figures on high school completion, completion of some college, and attainment of at least a bachelor’s degree. Following Census Bureau practice, the educational attainment figures were for 25- to 29-year-olds. That report can be found here….
      In regard to your additional query, information is available on the educational attainment of Hispanics by generation. The source for that is also the Current Population Survey (on which we based the blog). Using the March 2013 CPS, among Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds, 10% of foreign-born Hispanics had completed at least a bachelor’s degree. That compares to 22% among second generation Hispanic 25- to 29-year-olds and 19% of third generation and higher Latino 25- 29-year-olds. — Richard

    2. jaime ramirez3 years ago

      I too had the same question as Eduardo, and i am pleased to know that you guys have found more recent information on this highly interested topic. education among the hispanic community is something that fascinates me because i feel that hispanics tend to be wrongly informed about what an education means in this country.

    3. jaime ramirez3 years ago

      I was really thrilled reading this article because i am fascinated with hispanic education increasing in this country. As a hispanic, i know that the hispanic community along with other minorities continue to doubt that they too can prosper in this country, so this article is great evidence that it is possible and it is occurring in this country.

  3. Ignasio Garcia4 years ago

    Will there be a follow up report on college graduates? Of course the numbers due to the vast quantity of colleges may appear conflicting, but I (for one) am curious as to the tenacity of the students to complete and become a blessing to our society, community and of course culture…

  4. Antonio4 years ago

    Where did you find the number because I looked up the link you put from the Census and it give different figures .…

    For 2012 it said 4,628 and 4,138 thousands children in Nursery or kindergarten in the US .

    In this 2 categories 2,509 and 2,011 are whites which means that the share should be around 54% and 49%.

    My question is how did you come up with 45 % and 46 % for the white enrollment in your graph ?

    Also from the same source you have given the figures for Hispanic 988 and 1,050 much lower that 29 % and 27% .

    How did you come up with the number ?

    You are doing a great job but I am really confuse about the data
    Thank you .

    1. Mark Hugo Lopez4 years ago

      Hello Antonio!

      Thank you for your comment and thank you for reading out post.

      To answer your question, our analysis is limited to public schools. In 2012, there were (expressed in thoudands) 2,732 students enrolled in public nursery schools and 3,684 enrolled in public school kindergartens. (the numbers you mentioned are for the total number of students enrolled in public and private schools).

      For white non-Hispanics, the public school enrollment figures for nursery school and kindergarten are (expressed in thousands) 1,227 and 1,691 respectively.

      And for Hispanic students, the public school enrollment figures for nursery school and kindergarten are (again, expressed in thousands) 781 and 1,009 respectively.

      Using these, the white non-Hispanic share of public nursery school enrollment is 45% (1,227/2732). For Hispanics, that share is 29% (781/2732).

      I hope that’s helpful! Please let us know if you have other questions.

      1. Antonio4 years ago

        Ah ok I see. Thank you

        I feel to do the distinction public/private could be misleading concerning the scope of the demographic shift most of people could interpret the results differently.

        Anyway thanks for your reply

  5. Mercedes Casablanca4 years ago

    Can you publish data on this access by colleges ranking, and race and ethnicity ?

    1. Mark Hugo Lopez4 years ago

      Hello Mercedes,

      Great question. The data source for this, the Current Population Survey, does not have information on college rankings, so we cannot publish a tabulation connecting access by college ranking and by race/ethnicity.

      However, you might want to look to this report from the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES). You’ll find college selectivity and enrollment data for Hispanics and other racial/ethnic groups:

      Bozick, Robert, and Erich Lauff. 2007. Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002): A First Look at the Initial Postsecondary Experiences of the High School Sophomore Class of 2002. NCES 2008-308. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.…