Another way to trace the rise of the modern-day-middle class may be through life expectancy (see Part One), education, and the shift in population from rural to urban settings.
In 1870, only 2% of teens (age 16 – 18) graduated from high school, but as the country’s population continued to move from rural to urban settings, that changed. In 1850, average life expectancy was 39.
By 1900, six-point-four percent (6.4%) graduated from high school.
In 1940, before World War II, 50.8% graduated.
By 1970, that number climbed to 77.1%.
It is projected that in 2011-12, three-point-two (3.2) million will graduate from high school.
In 1800, there were ten permanent colleges and universities in the US. By 1850, that number reached 131.Today, there are 4,495 colleges, universities and junior colleges in the US.
In 1869 – 70, nine-thousand-three-hundred-seventy-one (9,371) college degrees were awarded.
By 1900, that number reached 28,681.
In 1969 – 70, the number of college graduates reached 839,730.
During the 2012–13 school year, colleges and universities are expected to award 937,000 associate’s degrees; 1.8 million bachelor’s degrees; 756,000 master’s degrees; and 174,700 doctor’s degrees. For the educated, the average life expectancy is age 82.
Most college graduates attended the public schools alongside students that dropped out of high school or only earned a high school degree. To learn is a choice influenced by the family and environment a child grows up in—not so-called incompetent teachers.
Continued on September 28, 2012 in A Short History of America’s Middle Class – Part 3 or return to Part 1
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.
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