Population size
In million
Mean years of schooling
Population 25 years and older
Gender gap in mean years of schooling
Male advantage, population 25 years and older
Universal lower secondary education reached in
Year 90% of 30-34 years old have at least lower secondary

Educational attainment

Italy 1900–2010, population 25 years and older

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Population by age, sex and education

Italy 1900–2010

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Main Findings

In 1900, only 4.2% of the Italian population older than 25 years had received at least lower secondary education. This proportion increased to 11.0% until 1950 and to 75.2% until 2010. By then, about 13.7% of the population aged 25 years or older finished a post-secondary education while 24.8% had primary education or less as their highest educational attainment. Mean years of schooling of the population 25 years or older increased from 1.7 years in 1900 to 3.4 years in 1950 and to 9.0 years in 2010.

Gender and age

In Italy, gender differences in educational attainment have been persistent and have been only slowly diminishing during the 20th century. In 1900, 6.0% of the men aged 25 years and older had at least lower secondary education, compared to about 2.4% of the women. By 1950 about 19.0% of the men and 11.7% of the women aged 30 to 34 years had achieved at least lower secondary education while for instance this share was only 9.3% and 4.4% for the population aged 65–69. Although completed lower secondary education became universal for men by 1990 (90.6%), it took five more years for Italian women to attain universality (1995: 92.5%). Since 1990, there has been an inverse gender gap in higher education, with larger proportions of women completing post-secondary education than men. In 2010, about 29.4% of women in the 30–34 age group had post-secondary educational attainment, compared to 19.4% of men.

About the data

The EDU20C estimates of the population of Italy by age, sex and education are based on several census datasets dating back to 1901. Italian censuses provide information on highest educational attainment in decennial intervals for the time since 1951. For the period before 1951, the EDU20C reconstruction relies on literacy data for 1901, 1911, 1921 and 1931. For Italy, all 6 education categories (aggregated to 4 before 1950) are available in the reconstruction model.


In the context of World Wars I and II, Italy, as many other countries in Europe, was facing changes in the extent of its national territory. We collected regional census reports from neighbouring countries like Austria and Hungary to assemble the data corresponding to the present territory. Additionally, some historical source data on the population structure were only available for insufficient large open-ended age groups (e.g. 95+ years from 1901 to 1951), what required an age structure extension to 100+ years based on Lx information from the life tables. Furthermore, it was necessary to interpolate the intercensal data-points for population by age and sex using a linear interpolation function.

Source Data

For Italy the major source of data on population by age, sex and educational attainment in the 20th century originates from the digitised archive of the Italian National Statistical Office/ISTAT. For the EDU20C reconstruction, we also used information on mortality extracted from the life tables available in the Human Mortality Database (HMD).

Did you know?
In 2010, mean years of schooling in Italy (9.0) are similar to Spain (9.1 years), and Greece (9.2).