More than 30 percent of American adults hold bachelor’s degrees, a first in the nation’s history, and women are on the brink of surpassing men in educational attainment, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.

The figures reflect an increase in the share of the population going to college that began in the mid-1990s, after a relatively stagnant period that began in the 1970s. They show significant gains in all demographic groups, but blacks and Latinos not only continue to trail far behind whites, the gap has also widened in the past decade.

As of March, 30.4 percent of people older than 25 in the United States held at least a bachelor’s degree, and 10.9 percent held a graduate degree, up from 26.2 percent and 8.7 percent 10 years earlier.

For many years, colleges have enrolled and graduated more women than men, and a historic male advantage in higher education has nearly been erased. In 2001, men held a 3.9 percentage point lead in bachelor’s degrees and 2.6 percentage points in graduate degrees; by last year, both gaps were down to 0.7 percentage point.

Among Hispanics, the share of adults holding bachelor’s degrees grew to 14.1 percent last year from 11.1 percent in 2001, and among blacks it climbed to 19.9 percent from 15.7 percent. But the distinction rose even faster among non-Hispanic whites, to 34 percent from 28.7 percent.

Asian-Americans remain the nation’s best-educated racial group, with 50.3 percent having bachelor’s degrees, and 19.5 percent holding graduate degrees.

— New York Times News Service