An individual’s age grouping
Why it matters
Approximately 50 percent of adult learners—that is, those first starting college after age 24—complete degrees within six years, compared to approximately 64 percent of traditional-age students (those starting college at age 20 or younger). Furthermore, more than 30 million adults have completed some college but have not earned a college degree. Although completing a degree program is likely to result in higher earnings for working adults, adult learners often need to balance competing demands when considering reentry to college, such as work and family obligations. In the workforce, older workers often contend with age discrimination in hiring: one experimental study found that younger applicants received callbacks for jobs at higher rates than older applicants, despite their resumes being identical otherwise
What to know about measurement
Data systems regularly collect individuals’ date of birth, which can be used to disaggregate data by age groups. For example, it is common to disaggregate enrollment in early learning programs by age, especially because eligibility for programs depends on the age of the child. Although K–12 systems typically do not disaggregate data by age groups, schools and districts can use students’ age to determine whether they exceed the expected age for their grade level. The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Postsecondary Data Partnership disaggregates data by the age at which students first enter college, with categories including “traditional age” (20 or younger), “delayed entry” (21 to 24), and “adult learners” (older than 24). The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) reports postsecondary enrollment using more detailed age groups: 14 to 17, 18 and 19, 20 and 21, 22 to 24, 25 to 29, 30 to 34, and 35 and older. To report labor market data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also uses several age groupings, starting with 16 to 19 years through 65 years and older.
This disaggregate appeared in eight source frameworks reviewed or this report, such as the National Academies Key National Education Indicators, the Institute for Higher Education Policy Postsecondary Metrics framework, and the Urban Institute’s Boosting Upward Mobility framework.
The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.