The data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows a continuing decline in early school-leaving, as highlighted already this week in a Department of Education report on school completion.
The 42% of people aged 15 or over with a third-level qualification is three times the rate it was in 1991, mostly as a result of a better educated younger population.
However, the figures also confirm strong links between the education levels of students’ parents and their own likelihood to stay in school or college longer.
For example, just 45% of people aged 20 whose parents’ highest level of education was Junior Certificate or equivalent were themselves still in full-time education or training. This rises to 65% for those whose both parents are educated to Leaving Certificate, and to 87.5% for those 20-year-olds whose parents both have a college degree.
The small-area information provided in the latest release from the CSO also highlights strong geographical disparities, such as those between the education status of 20-year-olds on census night last year.
In Cork City, for example, none of those living in the Fair Hill A electoral division were full-time students. The number aged 20 is not known, but there were 33 people aged 20 to 24 when the Census was taken.
In each of four adjoining electoral divisions, the corresponding full-time student figures ranged from 30% to 60%.
A wider picture shows that, in almost the entire south-east of Cork City, a majority of 20-year-olds were in full-time education. The rate was at least 82% in the Ballinlough, Douglas, and Rochestown areas.
In Dublin, most of the southside suburbs had similarly high proportions of full-time students among the 20-year-old population.
But in the inner city and west Dublin, the rates were mostly in the 23% to 56% range. Northside suburbs had similar rates, although some areas recorded up to 82% full-time study rates.
The figures emerge days after Higher Education Authority chief executive Graham Love urged colleges to make greater efforts in disadvantaged communities to increase third-level participation rates.
Despite programmes on widening access in recent decades, he pointed to the fact that just 15%-16% of young people in areas such as Darndale and Ballyfermot attend higher education, and only around a quarter of those in the inner city.
Department of Education figures this week also show that school-completion rates continue to improve and are now among Europe’s highest. However, rates of school leaving at schools in disadvantaged areas remain double those in other areas.
The benefits of a recovering economy are evident in the biggest fall in jobless rates being for people with qualifications related to engineering, manufacturing and construction. Their unemployment rates have fallen from nearly 16% in the 2011 Census to 6% last year.
The highest rates of unemployment are still among third-level arts and humanities graduates, at 12% and 8%, respectively.
The 7,589 people classed as working in fund management activities are more likely than any other category to have at least a third- level degree. The 87% of them who do so compares to just under 10% in the broad agriculture, forestry, and fishing industrial group.