Population size
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
Not yet achieved

Educational attainment

Portugal 1900–2010, population 25 years and older

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Population by age, sex and education

Portugal 1900–2010

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Main Findings

In 1900, only 1.0% of the Portuguese population older than 25 years had received at least lower secondary education. This proportion increased to 4.8% until 1950 and to 46.7% until 2010. By then, about 16.1% of the population aged 25 years or older finished a post-secondary education while 53.3% had primary education or less as their highest educational attainment. Mean years of schooling of the population 25 years or older increased from 0.9 years in 1900 to 1.7 years in 1950 and to 6.4 years in 2010.

Gender and age

In Portugal, gender differences in educational attainment have been persistent and have been only slowly diminishing during the 20th century. In 1900, 1.8% of the men aged 25 years and older had at least lower secondary education, compared to about 0.2% of the women. By 1950 about 9.4% of the men and 5.5% of the women aged 30 to 34 years had achieved at least lower secondary education while for instance this share was only 3.1% and 0.6% for the population aged 65–69. Universal lower secondary education has not yet been achieved, neither for men nor women. Since 1980, there has been an inverse gender gap in higher education, with larger proportions of women completing post-secondary education than men. In 2010, about 38.1% of women in the 30–34 age group had post-secondary educational attainment, compared to 24.9% of men.

About the data

The EDU20C estimates of the population of Portugal by age, sex and education are based on several census datasets dating back to 1900. Portuguese censuses provide information on highest educational attainment in decennial intervals for the time since 1940. For the period before 1940, the EDU20C reconstruction relies on literacy data for 1900, 1911, 1920 and 1930. For Portugal, all 6 education categoriecategories (aggregated to 4 before 1950) are available in the reconstruction model.


In Portugal we have in general a good and comprehensive data situation that doesn’t require any data preparations. For Portugal it was necessary to generate life tables for missing data-points by interpolating/extrapolating life expectancies at birth by sex. The model fits a logistic function to existing life expectancies at birth, given the values of upper and lower asymptotes. Based on these estimated life expectancies we use a function that interpolates the logarithms of the probabilities of dying (nqx) from two life tables to generate a comprehensive set of life tables for the entire reconstruction period. Both R functions are in their methodological core based on the Population Analysis System (PAS) Excel templates E0LGST and INTPLTF/INTPLTM. Additionally, some historical source data on the population structure were only available for insufficient large open-ended age groups (e.g. 85+ years from 1900 to 1950), 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 Portugal the major source of data on population by age, sex and educational attainment in the 20th century originates from the digitised archive and compendia of the Statistics Portugal/INE. For 1903, 1908, and 1913 life tables were constructed using MORTPAK provided by the UN (Model life table pattern: New Coale-Demeny South) based on extrapolated life expectancy at birth. Life expectancy was extrapolated based on Preston et al. (1976) and HMD data using PAS by the US Census Bureau.