America’s Most (and Least) Educated States

Print Email

5. Louisiana
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 22.5%
> Median household income: $44,164 (8th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 19.8% (3rd highest)

In addition to the only 22.5% of adult residents who had a bachelor’s degree in Louisiana, a low proportion of adults 25 and older even completed high school. Further, less than 21% of 18 to 24 year olds had less than a high school diploma or equivalent in 2013, the worst among all states. Education reform in general is controversial in the state. Governor Bobby Jindal has spoken out against the Common Core education standards adopted by many states, including Louisiana. Yet educational attainment was beneficial for state residents. While Louisianans who finished their education with a bachelor’s degree had a slightly lower median income than similarly-educated Americans nationwide, they considerably out-earned residents who did not have a college degree.

ALSO READ: 10 Cities Where Homebuyers Pay Cash

4. Nevada
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 22.5%
> Median household income: $51,230 (25th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 15.8% (24th highest)

Nevadans are among the least likely to complete high school and go to college. One in five residents 18 to 24 year old had less than a high school diploma last year, more than in every state except for Louisiana. And less than 45% of 18 to 24 year old residents had at least some college experience, also less than in all but one other state. Nevadans may not have as much of a financial incentive to pursue education, as residents with low rates of educational attainment were considerably less likely to live in poverty than Americans in other states. Perhaps due to the state’s vibrant entertainment industry, Nevada had the highest-paying jobs that do not require a high school diploma. The median pay for an adult aged 25 or older who did not graduate from high school was $23,119 in 2013, considerably higher than most other similarly educated Americans.

3. Arkansas
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 20.6%
> Median household income: $40,511 (2nd lowest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 19.7% (4th highest)

Only 20.6% of residents in Arkansas had obtained at least a bachelor’s degree in 2013, less than in all but two other states. And the median household income was just $40,511, second only to Mississippi. There were very few Arkansas residents with large incomes — the income of only 2.2% of households surpassed $200,000 last year — and a very large proportion of residents were struggling. Nearly one in five residents lived below the poverty line, among the highest rates in the U.S. While the highest proportion of residents in poverty were those who had not obtained a high school diploma or equivalent., the median earnings for such residents was higher than in many states, at $20,092.

ALSO READ: The Worst Economies in the World

2. Mississippi
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 20.4%
> Median household income: $37,963 (the lowest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 24.0% (the highest)

Nearly one in four Mississippi residents lived in poverty last year, by far the highest rate in the nation. More than 35% of people without a high school diploma in the state lived in poverty, also the highest rate compared to all other states. The poverty rate was substantially lower for residents with at least a bachelor’s degree, at just 6.7%. When compared to educated residents in other states, however, this was still among the highest rates in the country. Even residents with the the highest level of educational attainment — professional or graduate degrees — earned considerably less than those in other states. The median earnings of Mississippi residents with such degrees was less than $48,000 last year, the lowest nationwide.

1. West Virginia
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 18.9%
> Median household income: $41,253 (3rd lowest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 18.5% (10th highest)

Less than 19% of West Virginia’s adult population had completed at least a bachelor’s degree in 2013, more than 10 percentage points lower than the national rate and the lowest rate in the country. Residents ages 18 to 24 across the nation were also far more likely than West Virginia residents of this age group to have an associate’s degree or at least some college experience. West Virginia was one of only a few states where less than half of residents between 18 and 24 had at least some college experience last year. And yet, residents were not the worst off relative other least educated states. The median earnings of West Virginians without a high school diploma was $20,267, in line with the national median.

Click here to see America’s most educated states