Special Report

America's Most (and Least) Educated States

The Most Educated States in America

10. Minnesota
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 33.5%
> Median household income: $60,702 (9th highest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 11.2% (7th lowest)

More than one in three adults 25 and older in Minnesota had at least a bachelor’s degree last year, the 10th highest proportion nationwide. Like most well-educated states, Minnesota residents with a higher education were far less likely to live in poverty. Just 3.2% of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree lived below the poverty line last year, less than in all but two other states. Households in the state were also quite wealthy, with a typical household earning $60,702 in 2013, versus a national median household income of $52,250.

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9. New York
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 34.1%
> Median household income: $57,369 (16th highest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 16.0% (20th highest)

While New York had some of the highest proportions of adults with a college degree, only 85.6% of adults had a high school education as of 2013, slightly worse than the national rate. Yet, among the state’s younger residents, education attainment rates appear to be very strong. More than 61% of the 18 and 24-years olds had at least some college experience, the fifth highest rate in the U.S., while 14.4% of this age group had a bachelor’s degree, better than any other state except for Massachusetts.

8. New Hampshire
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 34.6%
> Median household income: $64,230 (7th highest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 8.7% (the lowest)

Nearly 35% of New Hampshire residents 25 and older had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2013, the eighth highest rate in the country. New Hampshire’s labor market was also healthy enough to offer a meaningful escape from poverty at all levels of education. Just 9.8% of workers who finished their education with a high school diploma lived in poverty in 2013, the second lowest rate in the country. Additionally, New Hampshire residents with a high school diploma had median earnings of $32,463 in 2013, well above the national median of $27,350.

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7. Vermont
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 35.7%
> Median household income: $52,578 (20th highest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 12.3% (12th lowest)

While most states with well-educated populations also tend to be quite wealthy, Vermont’s household median income of $52,578 last year was just in line with the national median. The median earnings of Vermonters with bachelor’s degrees were even more unusual — at $40,889, the earnings were considerably lower than those among educated people nationwide. Like much of the northeast, the job market in Vermont has struggled in recent years. Governor Peter Shumlin recently announced an initiative to attract, and retain, talented workers.

6. Virginia
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 36.1%
> Median household income: $62,666 (8th highest)
> Pct. below poverty level: 11.7% (9th lowest)

While more than 36% of Virginia residents have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree only 88.4% of residents had graduated from high school or completed its equivalent, a lower rate than in most other other highly educated states. Like in most states, pursuing higher education in Virginia is beneficial. A typical Virginia resident with a bachelor’s degree made $54,270, nearly $26,000 more than the median earnings for Virginians with a high school diploma. State residents with a high school diploma or its equivalent, however, still earned more than the national median of just $27,350 for Americans who did not pursue an education after high school.