Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wednesday search challenge (2/12/14): How many students, how many years of school?

As you know, I'm really interested in education at many levels.  I taught graduate level computer science for 12 years, I've taught classes in 4th grade and high school, and I've even taught Googlers and rocket scientists at NASA how to search more effectively.  

But I always wonder--how well are students doing?  

A simple measure of that is to figure out how many years of school do students in the US take before they move on to other things?  

That's the question at the heart of today's challenge.  When I thought of this question, it took me about 5 minutes to find the data, download it, and create the following graph.  

Chart showing number of US students and the number of years of education they have, by year

As you can see, this is a stacked graph showing the number of students in the US by year.  Each color represents the fraction of students that have achieved N years of completion.  As you can see, the purple segment (students who have had 1 - 3 years of college) has always been about the same size as the number of students who have graduated from college.  

Today's Search Challenge:  
1.  Can you create (or find) a graph with this same data?  (That is, students with N years of schooling, from the years 1940 through 2013.)  
2.  (Extra credit)  Can you add students with post-graduate years of study as well?  (That is, students who have gone to graduate school, attained a Masters, PhD, or other degree, e.g., MD, JD, EdD, etc.  This should be a thin line atop this chart.)  

Be sure to tell us HOW you found your data (what searches did you do?  what resources did you check out?).  If you spent a long time in a rathole, let us know that too.  

I'll comment tomorrow, then show my answer on Friday and reveal my data source.  

There's no time pressure to answer this quickly, but I'm curious about how long it takes you to figure out the answer to this.  
P.S.  Don't bother doing a Search-By-Image.  I downloaded this data from somewhere and created this graph myself.  I hope you'll do the same.  Once you have the data like this, you can examine it in many different ways.  

Search on! 


  1. Good Morning, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers


    [students number of years studying united states ]
    [USA students years schooling]
    [USA students years school]

    Schools Statistics

    Table 103.20. Percentage of the population 3 to 34 years old enrolled in school, by age group: Selected years, 1940 through 2012

    Table 318.20. Bachelor's, master's, and doctor's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by field of study: Selected years, 1970-71 through 2011-12

    At this point, thought about new ways to search. I thought a needed a key word. I think this is it: Educational attainment

    [Educational attainment ]
    Educational attainment refers to the highest level of education that an individual has completed.

    [United States education level statistics]

    CPS Historical Time Series Tables

    [US educational attainment]

    The condition of education. Tables. Source A.

    What are the trends in the educational level of the United States population. Educational Attainment


    1. Can you create (or find) a graph with this same data?
    Population age 25 and over by Educational Attainment: 1940:2013

    2. Can you add students with post-graduate years of study as well?

    Interesting. Source A, shows graphs about this topic. According to the graphs, females have more Bachelor's degree and Master's degree than males since 1995.

    Change from 2003 to 2013 in the number of men and women 25 and over who have completed selected levels of education

  2. I began by heading to Google Public Data Explorer. Searched there for
    [ education completion ]
    It appears that the World Bank had the data but I couldn't get it to work for me.
    Google Search [ world bank education completion data ]
    I went to their EdStats Query tool and tried to select the data for Primary, Secondary and Tertiary completion in the United States but couldn't find Secondary completion. Maybe a rathole.

    Google Search [ census data ]
    There I followed the menus PEOPLE > EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT > TABLES to get to
    CPS Historical Time Series Tables

    The data matches your timeline of 1940-2013 and one of the graphs looks similar to yours.

    About 10 minutes

  3. I'll try to find new data and sources. Also I forgot to say how much time I invest in this SearchResearch Challenge

    At first, tried firs queries and found possible answers but I wasn't sure. This took including reading about 30 mins.

    Then I took a break due to issues with connection. Thought that I was searching the world "colegio" that in English translates as School and that gave me a clue to think broadly. That is when thought about the key term. That took me about 10 mins.

    Finally, doing the new search, copy, paste and review took me another 10 mins.

    I take longer time probably than many of my peers due to I get lost reading and time fly! I really love Wednesdays just because the Challenges!

  4. I wanted to learn more about my country. So I did these queries.

    [años de estudio México] in web-search and with search tools (past year) to find current information

    It is sad that we only have in average 8.6 years of school. OECD has an average of 12. At least, we are improving.

    Grado promedio de escolaridad, México

    Mexicanos tienen más años de escolaridad, pero no mejoran ingresos, revela estudio. Según el análisis de BBVA las percepciones debieron aumentar al menos 20 por ciento

    [BBVA Research educacion México]

    La evolución del nivel educativo en México y en la OCDE, 1960-2010 I need to read this document in detail. Looks very interesting not just for Mexico but for other countries.

  5. I am going to give this my best but my palms are sweating, my heart rate is up. I see a challenge requiring graphs and I have a physical reaction. The engineers (Ramón) probably love this type of question. I just want others to know at this very moment I have a lot of trepidation so if you are like me you aren't alone. I wish everyone good luck.

  6. Anne and I weren't going to even try doing the graph. Too much math for us! We solved N for no! But we thought we could find another graph. We did a search query - graph student highest level education attained - Before we looked at the results we tried doing an advanced search and limiting results to excel spreadsheets. That didn't work so we went back to original query. Found this site in Wikipedia which includes a graph for the years 1940-2009. This graph was footnoted and we checked the footnote. The original information came from the US Census Bureau - - Reading through the census report there is information on postgraduate levels of education.
    If we get some quiet time in the library (or maybe during tomorrow's anticipated snow day) we will try to create a graph. These stats go through 2009 only but if we create the graph we are going to consider ourselves successful!

  7. Dan, I guess I am about one sixth as clever as you, this challenge having taken about half an hour of trying different phrases. Finally discovered the key phrase is "educational attainment". Once I had that US Census data popped up: I have not tried to make a graph having forgotten all the stuff you explained with bicycle racing. Maybe after lunch I will tackle adding the post grad data.

    Good one ! jon

  8. I thought learning was suppose to go on throughout the lifespan… guess that is different from "education"…? but moving on to other things is a good thing… I guess. Having squandered ~ 18 years of academic indoctrination, now when I'm faced with such graphs I turn to fowl files - not graphs, but graphical… ;)
    more years please
    learning to overthink
    more sweaty palms…
    no disrespect, just some irreverence in the face of the 5 minute graphical raw data wave.

    1. Actually, that's exactly right. "Learning" is (or should be) lifelong. "Education" refers to the formal process of taking classes, working with a master teacher... going through some process to be explicitly taught something. *Learning* is incredibly hard to measure, but education is fairly straightforward. Did a person take the class or not? People track education because it's pretty straightfoward.

    2. this may not be as targeted an indicator as "Did a person take the class or not? People track education because it's pretty straightfoward.", but may be
      a reflection of whether people are paying for classes in greater numbers, length of time and costs…
      "student loan debt for D.C. was over $39,000. The average student loan debt in the next highest state (Georgia) was $27,766."
      Fed Reserve, KC Research - charts, graphs, maps verbiage…
      Brookings, more charts, graphs, etc.

      a more rhythmic approach:
      Daryl & John

      "If you spent a long time in a rathole, let us know that too. "… ☑ yes - but I thought those were gerbils — guess I need more *education*.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Repost - I am trying not to look at my peers results because I want to figure this out. That is except for remmij who always has something witty to say or finds related (sometimes not so related) material.

      Searched Google Public Data Explorer Query [America education levels]
      Results - unable to zero in on education completed.
      Query [american education statistics]
      National Center for Education link Education Data Analysis link State Profiles
      Results - unable to find education completion data.
      Query [american education completion 1940..2013 graph]
      Huebler Blog (1940-2009)
      from International Education Statistics
      I feel I now have a starting point and will continue. Thanks Remmij for the cartoon. I needed to laugh at my reaction. I was just being honest. I may not relate well to graphs but I do have persistence.

    2. Imitation-close chart I hope. Still working on the rest of the challenge

      Shared Link

      YouTube discussion gives some ideas about the changes in Education Attainment that taken place since 1940. Made by US Census Bureau. Random Sampling Blog at Census Bureau was mentioned. I found a table link at Random Samplings that gives us just 2013 Education Attainment from grade one through to Doctorate. Shared link to this table

    4. Query [post-graduate education usa data 1940] Another blog Higher Ed Data Nice graph. Same data that I have seen several places now produced by US Census Bureau. That being the case I am have difficulty finding tables/data for Post Graduate Education from 1940 -2013.

    5. look forward to seeing your results - as well as everybody else's and Dr.D's explanation - feel like I've been sitting, staring at that graph, for too long…
      sitting too long
      girls & math
      now I even need the comics explained… sigh
      and maybe the explanations too
      " a constant." OK, now I'm smiling, but I don't constantly know why…

    6. Query [post-graduate education usa data 1940]
      Result I’ve shared a table from 1960 to 2010 Degrees Conferred Bachelors, Masters and Doctorates from “Digest of Education Statistics Page 284” * very large file*‎ . There are a lot of tables/data where one could get lost in numbers.

    7. I took Ramón's table from Digest of Educational Statistics & downloaded the spreadsheet “Degrees Conferred from 1970 to 2012 and pulled out appropriate data to creat this basic chart. Here's the link Degrees 1970=2012
      Maybe someone can tell me why I'm unable to edit the chart. It won't open “change appearance” for some reason.

    8. Repost Chart Second Chart

    9. I am not sure of the best solution but I discovered when creating chart with dates on the axis Fusion Tables has issues with the value being a time/date. As soon as you change the value to ‘text’ from 'date/time', for example, the “change appearance” is no longer grayed out. How the data is imported may have a bearing.

    10. At theCensus Bureau I tried to include the graduate degrees so I searched [education attainment 1940 (master OR doctor)] because up until now I haven’t been able to find data including Masters & Doctorates back to 1940. I found a pdf document “Education Attainment” that stated
      “In 1990 and 2000, the question was updated to reflect current interest in both level of school completed and the types of degrees (if any) people had received. The Census 2000 question allowed respondents to choose from a list of 16 educational levels, ranging from no schooling completed to professional or doctoral degrees.”
      The suggests to me that the Census Bureau may not have the data back to 1940. I’ve already posted a chart (see above) from the National Center for Education Statistics back to 1960. I will head back to that website and scour around for tables going back to 1940. Any other ideas?

    11. From the N.C.E.S. (National Center for Education Statistics) I discovered you could select the year for a detailed report. The 2012 report has details back to 1869 whereas the 2013 reports are 1970 forwards. This is my edited version of the table. Table for Degrees Conferred I have cleaned it up and pulled out totals to create a chart. I should mention that when you click to see the shared links, click on Menu> Chart 1 as I don't believe it appears otherwise. The results actually need a better chart to be meaningful especially in the early years prior to 1925. Let me think about that.

    12. Link to chart created and just in case

    13. I'm reposting therefore it may be duplicated (I am seeing others posts but mine from this morning haven't appeared). I will just provide a link to my table and charts from 1869-2012 for degrees achieved from NCES. Sorry for inconvenience but I'm not aware of anything I've done differently in posting. I think I did 3 posts this morning. I usually keep a copy but it is hiding as well.

    14. Okay I gave it a try. I know it needs editing but I have gone through the exercise just to see how to merge the files. I took the table Elementary to College 1940-2013 with the Degrees 1869-2013 and merged them together. I learned a lot. I would have to edit the first table because it's in 000's and I haven't verified the numbers. Just to show it can be done.

    15. Rosemary -- Excellent chart. You went way beyond my question! Nicely done. I take it this data is all from NCES? (Side comment: Usually Fusion Tables let you give attribution to the data source. That would be a nice add-on to this most excellent chart.)

    16. I agree and found the attributes are a good idea. I also found that when you working with a merged table you have to add the attributes to the originals as well. I hope we have another chart question or perhaps a map since those look interesting. I see Fusion Tables does this function but we also have used Google Map Engine. Not sure how these two work differently but it would be fun to try another day.

  10. Doing a little more of Research found:

    Searched [average educational attainment worldwide]

    Education Attainment in the Adult Population (Barro-Lee Data Set)

    This site has statistics about: Educational Attainment of the Total Population Aged 15 and Over.

    Education at Glance Here shows different data and information about USA and the rest of the world. Also shows trends and other interesting facts.

  11. I like Remmij's cartoons too as I have Rosemary's reactions to graphs and data as well. Even though I can usually work it out once panic is over.
    It's not relevant to the question but this makes me think about the dreaded PISA, currently giving Welsh government lots of angst!

    1. thought the PISA info & video was interesting - specifically because it targets 15 year olds (~0:55) and I learned something about Lake Chad 11,000 B.C. (~4:45) as well as
      some gender differences (~7:00): girls better at reading, boys at math and≅in science…
      video (thought it was an effective format with graphics)
      interactive map:
      2012 (math emphasis in the 3/9 year cycles) country comparison
      am curious if you think the theory expressed on the site matches the reality on the ground in Wales? and if data derived is useful?

    2. That's a difficult question to answer, Remmij. I'm not a teacher or have anything much to do with children.
      Do the statistics lie? - we all know they can - "lies, damned lies and statistics". And are they measuring the right things?
      There is a lot of politics involved certainly. Meddling with education is the main hobby of politicians.
      And media likes to portray things as doom and gloom , the headline is more important than reality.
      The politicians would say Wales has a lot of poverty and deprivation which affects things but the PISA video says that doesn't have to be true.
      My own impression (and its only my impression) is that there has sadly been a culture change in the past 30 years. Before that, education was very much seen in Welsh communities as a way out of poverty. Members of mining communities were often determined that their children would get an education so they could get out of being miners. Being or becoming a teacher was seen as success.
      But the mines have gone and that belief in the power of education seems to have faded as well.

      Although (more statistics) a degree has significant lifetime impact on earnings - particularly for women -

      I had a go at the sample questions and was able to do them all except the average speed. Yet I also know that I can search [how to calculate average speed] and plenty of websites will tell me. Does that make me clever or stupid? Or does the fact that I know I can do that mean that I am using my intelligence in a real life situation to solve a problem? It is interesting to think about.

  12. Librarians see many subtleties and have their fingers on the social intelligence pulse… thanks for the insight on the ground in Cymru.
    hope this is an amendable trend and the tangible power of an education rises in value again —
    "Before that, education was very much seen in Welsh communities as a way out of poverty. Members of mining communities were often determined that their children would get an education so they could get out of being miners. Being or becoming a teacher was seen as success.
    But the mines have gone and that belief in the power of education seems to have faded as well."

    the application of knowledge can be a sticky wicket and potentially as much of a briar patch as the lack of it. As you said, an interesting topic to mull over.
    Benjamin Disraeli/Twain?
    may be of interest
    bioinformatics TED
    too much data TED