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How Does the U.S. Equate in the G-8?

August 22, 2007

Among the world’s most economically developed countries, the United States hosts the most foreign students, 22 percent of the total number of postsecondary students studying abroad.  However, foreign students represent a small percentage of all postsecondary students in the U.S. (3 percent)—one of the lowest proportions of foreign students among the G-8 countries—according to a report released this month by the National Center of Education Statistics.

The report, Comparative Indicators of Education in the United States and Other G-8 Countries: 2006, compares the United States with the other G-8 countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom—on a range of indicators related to citizens’ educational attainment and investment in education by the countries themselves.

In fiscal year 2003, the United States spent a higher percentage (7 percent) of its gross domestic product on education than any of the other G-8 countries, with 2.9 percent specifically for higher education. None of the other five countries submitting budgetary information spent more than 1.4 percent of their GDP on higher education. The United States also spent the highest amount of any G-8 country on a per-student basis, spending more than $24,000 per student at the higher education level and nearly $9,000 per student at the combined primary and secondary education levels.

The United States ranked third among the G-8 countries for the percentage of 25-to 64-year-olds to have completed a higher education (39 percent), following the Russian Federation (55 percent) and Canada (45 percent).  The United States slides to the No. 4 slot in the ranking for the younger age group (25-34), as Japan moves in front of the United States on this indicator. Although the United States awarded the greatest percentage of first university degrees in social sciences, business, and law combined, it lags behind all other G-8 countries in the percentage of first degrees awarded in science, mathematics, and engineering-related fields. Germany leads the G-8 countries in the percentage of first degrees awarded in science, math, and engineering-related fields.

Eighty-three percent of U.S. adults ages 25 to 64 with secondary education as their highest level of educational attainment earned at or below the median income of U.S. adults in 2004. The U.S. percentage was higher than the corresponding percentages in all of the other G-8 countries except the United Kingdom (also at 83 percent). This would indicate that, relative to other G-8 countries, educational attainment is closely tied to income level in the United States and the United Kingdom.

For additional findings, visit the National Center of Education Statistics Web site to download the full report.  For other recent NCES reports visit the NACUBO Web pages.