Educational attainment measures the highest level of formal schooling community members have completed.
Why This Matters
Educational attainment is an important indicator of the knowledge, skills, and competencies individuals have that allow them to participate effectively in society and the economy. Highly educated individuals tend to be less prone to unemployment and have significantly higher lifetime earnings through income (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2011a). Studies have shown that educational attainment has an impact on many aspects of well-being, with higher education related to longer lives, greater participation in politics and the community, and lower crime (OECD, 2011a). Consequently, educational attainment provides a good indicator of individual well-being as well as whether students are being adequately prepared to meet the demands of the labour market.
Educational attainment is closely connected to the economy and basic needs, and is commonly used as a proxy measure for the skills available in the population and the labour force (OECD, 2011b).
With respect to basic needs, individuals with higher education levels tend to be less prone to unemployment and have significantly higher lifetime earnings from income (OECD, 2011a). Consequently, individuals with higher education levels are in a much better position to provide for the basic needs of themselves and their families.
Educational attainment also links to health. Social determinants of health research indicates that educational attainment contributes to longer and healthier lives (Ross & Wu, 1996; Lleras-Muney, 2005). Part of this relationship links to behaviours associated with higher education: “The well-educated are less likely to smoke, are more likely to exercise, to get health check-ups, and to drink moderately” (Ross & Woo, 1995).
Measurement and Limitations
Educational attainment is measured as the highest level of formal education completed by individuals 25 and over. There are five levels of educational attainment measured: no certificate or diploma, a secondary school diploma or equivalent; a registered apprenticeship or other trades certificate or diploma; a college, CEGEP, or other non-university certificate or diploma; and a university degree, certificate, or diploma.
This indicator only takes into account the highest level of education completed.
The data for this indicator are collected by Statistics Canada for each census year. Recent data can be accessed at: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/index-eng.cfm
This data is updated for each census year, as the data becomes available.
Aghion, P., & Howitt, P. (1998). Endogenous growth theory. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Braunerhjelm, P., Acs, Z., Audretsch, D., & Carlsson, B. (2009). The missing link: Knowledge diffusion and entrepreneurship in endogenous growth. Small Business Economics, 34(2), 105-25.
Lleras-Muney, A. (1995). The relationship between education and adult mortality in the United States. Review of Economic Studies, 72, 189-221.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2011a). Compendium of OECD well-being indicators. Retrieved from: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/4/31/47917288.pdf
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2011b). Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators. Retrieved from: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/61/2/48631582.pdf
Ross, Catherine E. & Chia-ling Wu. (1995). The links between education and health.” American Sociological Review, 60, 719-45.
Ross, C.E. & C-L Wu. 1996. Education, age and the cumulative advantage in health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 37(1), 104-120.
Statistics Canada. (2006). Census guide 2B. Retrieved from http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2006/ref/pdf/3901_D15_T1_V1-eng.pdf
Educational Attainment Sustainable Development Goals
4. Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning
Obtaining a quality education is the foundation to improving people’s lives and sustainable development. Major progress has been made towards increasing access to education at all levels and increasing enrolment rates in schools particularly for women and girls. Basic literacy skills have improved tremendously, yet bolder efforts are needed to make even greater strides for achieving universal education goals. For example, the world has achieved equality in primary education between girls and boys, but few countries have achieved that target at all levels of education.
Related Educational Attainment Targets
By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship