Americans 60 or older are more likely than ever to have college degrees, helping redefine work and retirement as educated baby boomers swell the senior population at rates faster than young adults earn diplomas.
Census figures released Thursday highlight changes in U.S. college completion, which reached a high of 30.4 percent last year. It comes amid increasing shares of older Americans in the workplace and record drops in employment for young adults, an age twist that is historically unprecedented.
"This is an important milestone in our history," Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said, referring to the increase in people with college degrees across all age groups. "The more education people have the more likely they are to have a job and earn more money, particularly for individuals who hold a bachelor's degree."
The college gains are making it easier for older Americans to work later in life because they are more likely than their parents' generation to hold higher-skilled jobs, which are seen as harder to replace. Due to increased life expectancy, rising health care costs and other financial incentives to keep working, the government projects that 1 in 4 workers by 2020 will be at least 55 years old -- up from 1 in 5 today.