Special Report

The Least Educated Cities

10. Vineland-Bridgeton, N.J.
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 13.7%
> Median household income: $45,978 (148th lowest)
> Median earnings – bachelor’s degree: $53,187 (30th highest)
> Poverty rate: 20.6% (58th highest)

Less than 14% of adults living in the Vineland-Bridgeton metro area had attained at least a bachelor’s degree last year, the 10th lowest percentage nationwide and less than half the national rate of nearly 30%. College-level qualifications were a better investment for Vineland area residents than in most other U.S. cities. Median earnings for adults with a high school diploma were just $23,818 in 2013, among the lower figures in the country. A typical college-educated adult, on the other hand, earned more than $53,000, one of the higher median earnings and more than similarly educated Americans in most other cities. More than 20% of Vineland metro area residents lived below the poverty line last year, compared to less than 16% nationwide.

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9. Merced, Calif.
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 13.5%
> Median household income: $40,687 (54th lowest)
> Median earnings – bachelor’s degree: $41,719 (116th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 25.2% (13th highest)

Merced was one of five California metro areas leading the nation for low educational attainment rates. Median earnings for adults with just a high school diploma were among the highest nationwide, at nearly $32,000. Like in most cities with low college-education rates, however, residents were also less likely than most Americans to have finished high school. While nearly 87% of adults nationwide had completed at least high school in 2013, less than 68% of adults living in Merced had done so, one of the lowest figures in the country. Low education rates likely contributed to the area’s high poverty. Last year, more than one-quarter of adults lived below the poverty line, one of the highest rates among all U.S. metro areas. Nearly 16% of the population also did not have U.S. citizenship last year — one of the highest percentages nationwide. This may partly explain the low levels of education, as non-citizens are less likely to attend college.

8. Visalia-Porterville, Calif.
> Bachelor’s degree or higher: 13.3%
> Median household income: $39,422 (29th lowest)
> Median earnings – bachelor’s degree: $50,569 (73rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 30.1% (4th highest)

College-educated adults in Visalia earned considerably more than their less-educated peers in the area. Adults with just a high school diploma had median earnings of $20,515 last year — one of the lowest figures nationwide — while a typical college-educated adult in Visalia earned $50,569, roughly in line with the national median. Only a fraction of the population, however, made such a high income, as just 13.3% of adults had completed at least a bachelor’s degree last year. Poverty was much more likely, with more than 30% of residents reporting incomes below the poverty line, the fourth highest rate nationwide. Like a majority of cities on this list, Visalia’s agriculture and mining industry make up a large portion of the area’s economy. Nearly 19% of the workforce in Visalia-Porterville — a higher percentage than all but one other metro area — were employed in agricultural sectors, versus just 2% nationwide.