The Road to Economic Opportunity and Social Mobility
Posted by Jessica Gilmour on August 06, 2020 in categoryFacts & ResearchcategoryNewscategoryAdvocacy

The Lumina Foundation works to ensure 60% of U.S. residents—by 2025—will obtain post-high school education, whether achieved through college degrees, industry certifications, workforce certificates, or other credentials to meet individual, economic, and social demands. The U.S. has shifted from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based economy, a system where the vast majority of jobs require education beyond high school.

The Lumina Foundation’s “A Stronger Nation” data tracker measured the United States’ national attainment of postsecondary education. Key takeaways from the research is highlighted below.

Attainment Goals

Photo courtesy of

In 2018, the national average of U.S. residents, ages 25-64, who obtained education post-high school was 51.3%.  Since 2008 this number has increased by over 10 percentage points, proving steady growth across the 10 years. Although the growth shows promise, if it remains steady the national average will not reach 60% by 2025. 

Photo courtesy of

As shown in the image above, only half of U.S. citizens hold credential beyond secondary education. A point of optimism lies within the “some college no credential” group (16.1%) in which someone obtained education and skills that may not be fully recognized.

Race and Ethnicity

Photo courtesy of

Educational attainment across racial and ethnic groups remains unequal. As a nation, we must provide equitable opportunities for postsecondary education as it is one of the most secure pathways to economic opportunity and social mobility. The numbers depicted in the image above represent the imbalance of opportunity among racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.

Black, Native American, and Hispanic citizens who achieved a certificate of associate degree or higher are well below the national average. Today’s educational system fails to meet the needs of many minority racial and ethnic groups because of historical polices, practices, and beliefs that linger today. 

Age Attainment

Photo courtesy of

According to the Lumina Foundation, 37% of college students are 25 or older. This statistic re-illustrates the “fresh out of high school” imagery that most think when picturing a college student. It is important to note that postsecondary education does not have a time stamp—it is achieved by many at varying ages.

Because the national structure of the workforce has shifted to an education-based skillset, increasing postsecondary certification is imperative for economic growth, both nationally and individually.

The Need for Adult Basic Education

As work is done to ensure postsecondary education, we also recognize the segment of the workforce with education levels below secondary. Providing low literate adults with resources to ensure basic education creates more opportunities to raise the number of citizens who obtain higher certificates. 

Forty-three million adults in the U.S. cannot read, write, or do basic math above a third-grade reading level. These adults struggle to join and succeed in the current workforce. ProLiteracy works to ensure those adults who are marginalized because of their education levels have the opportunity to improve their quality of life through literacy.

Providing adults with basic education can help to remove the hurdles that currently stand in their way. Helping adults gain literacy skills helps reduce poverty, improve public health, and advance human rights around the world. It can directly contribute to building economic opportunity and strengthening the workforce. Adult basic education plays a large role in the Lumina Foundation’s mission to ensure 60% of U.S. residents—by 2025—will obtain post-high school education.

The Lumina Foundation does important work to advance education in the U.S. Together, ProLiteracy and the Lumina Foundation can work toward providing better opportunities for millions.

To learn more about the Lumina Foundation and its efforts to raise the national average of citizens who obtain post-high school education, visit


Related Posts

Subscribe to our Blog

Never miss a blog post! Sign up to receive daily, weekly, or monthly email blog notifications.

Sign Up


See the Latest Research

Research - White Paper

Research proves the correlation between obtaining literacy skills and the return on investment related to improving an adult’s life and future.

Learn More