America’s Best (and Worst) Educated States

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5. Louisiana
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 21.1%
> Median household income: $41,734 (7th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 20.4% (3rd highest)

Only 82.5% of adults in Louisiana have high school diplomas, one of the lowest percentages in the country. College education in the state is also low. Just 26.3% of adults have associate degrees or higher and only 21.1% have bachelor’s degrees or higher. Both these rates are well below national averages. Graduate and professional degrees are also low. Only 7.1% of adults have a graduate or professional degree, one of the lowest numbers in the country.

4. Kentucky
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 21.1%
> Median household income: $41,141 (4th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 19.1% (5th highest)

Kentucky residents are among the least likely to have a bachelor’s degree or high school diploma. Only 83.1% of adults have a high school education, and 7% of adults have not completed the ninth grade — both among the worst rates in the U.S. Residents without a high school education often struggle to earn a living — 32.1% live in poverty — more than twice the 15.5% poverty rate for adults who have finished high school. Despite the state’s many problems, Kentucky residents aged 16 to 19 are more likely to be either in school or to have graduated high school than their peers nationwide, at 95.7% versus 95.1% across the U.S.

Also Read: America’s Poorest States

3. Arkansas
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 20.3%
> Median household income: $38,758 (3rd lowest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 19.5% (4th highest)

Not only is Arkansas among the 10 worst states in the nation for high school graduation rates, at 83.8%, but it also has the second-smallest proportion of adults with at least an associate’s degree, at just 26.1%. The poverty rate for adults with less than a high school education is seven times higher than for those with a bachelor’s degree or more.

2. Mississippi
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 19.8%
> Median household income: $36,919 (the lowest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 22.6% (the highest)

Just 81.1% of adults in Mississippi are high school graduates, tied with Texas and California for the lowest percentage in the nation. Additionally, 6.6% of adults have not completed the ninth grade — especially troubling in a state with a poverty rate of 32.5% for those without a high school diploma. Although the median earnings for an adult with no education past high school is just $24,060 — one of the lowest figures in the nation — more than 80% of adults do not have a bachelor’s degree, while more than 70% have not completed an associate’s degree.

1. West Virginia
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 18.5%
> Median household income: $38,482 (2nd lowest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 18.6% (10th highest)

Just 18.5% of West Virginians have at least a bachelor’s degree — 10 percentage points lower than the national rate of 28.5% and considerably lower than the next-lowest state, Mississippi. West Virginia is also the only state in the nation where less than 7% of adults have a graduate or professional degree. West Virginia adults are the least likely in the nation to have at least an associate’s degree, at 24.9%, compared to 36.3% nationwide. Median earnings for adults with an advanced degree in West Virginia is $52,308 — more than $12,000 below the national median.

Michael B. Sauter and Alexander E.M. Hess

Also Read: America’s Best-Educated States

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