Special Report

America's Most and Least Educated States: A Survey of All 50

The United States offers some of the most expensive college educations in the world, and costs have risen to record highs. The College Board found that in the most recent academic year, higher education costs once again increased faster than the rate of inflation. Despite the rising costs, however, college enrollment has been increasing for decades in the United States. Over the 10 years through 2012, university attendance increased by 24%. And as of last year, more than 30% of American adults had a college education, up from the previous year.

Based on recently released educational attainment data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed each state population’s level of higher education. Massachusetts again led the nation this year, with 41.2% of adults having attained at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2014. West Virginia, also unchanged from 2013, trailed every other state, with less than 20% of state adults reporting at least a college degree. These are the most and least educated states in America.

Click here to see the most and least educated states in America. 

States with relatively high percentages of adults with a bachelor’s degree are almost always relatively wealthy states. Of the 15 states with the highest college attainment rates, only Kansas had a median household income that did not exceed the national median income of $53,657. On the other end of the spectrum, all of the 15 states with the lowest education levels except for Wyoming reported a lower median income than the national median.

Sterling Lloyd, senior researcher with national education newspaper Education Week, agreed this is not especially surprising. Not only do college-educated adults frequently have the skills necessary to obtain higher-paying jobs, but also companies tend to operate in areas where the workforce has suitable skills. In the 15 most educated states, with only four exceptions, the share of the state’s workforce employed in the traditionally high-paying professional, scientific, and management industry exceeded the corresponding national share of 11.1%.

The strongest improvements in college attainment rates from 2013 were mostly in states that already had relatively high attainment rates. However, no state reported a change of more than 1.5 percentage points, and improvements were even more scarce among less educated states. In the 15 most educated states, the college attainment rate meaningfully improved in eight states. On the other hand, the rate improved in just two of the least educated states.

A healthy economic environment is not just the consequence of a good education, Lloyd explained, but also often a precursor. In fact, the substantial resources necessary to attend college means residents of relatively wealthy states are more likely to attend college in the first place than residents of less wealthy states. As Lloyd said, “That’s why we see these disparities in education being so stubborn over time: It’s hard to move the needle.”

While the precise relationship between high funding levels and high educational achievement is very controversial among researchers, the most educated states tended to spend more on public education per student. Only five of the 15 most educated states reported a lower school spending per pupil in 2013 than the national average expenditure of $10,700 per pupil. Among the 15 least educated states, only three reported higher educational expenditures than the national average figure.

“I think most people would agree that if there is not enough funding there, it makes it harder for educators to have the resources that they need to serve students and to boost achievement. But it’s hard to decipher from the research exactly what the appropriate funding level is,” Lloyd explained.

To identify the level of college achievement in each of the 50 states, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the percentage of adults in each state who had completed at least a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey (ACS). The median household income, high school attainment rate, poverty rate, the percentage of households relying on food stamps, as well as average earnings by education level also came from the ACS. We reviewed these data for both 2014 and 2013. School spending figures, which do not include private education spending, are as of the end of 2013 and came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of School System Finances.

These are the most and least educated states.

1. Massachusetts
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
41.2%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 89.7%
> 2014 median household income: $69,160 (6th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $57,451 (6th highest)

Last year, 41.2% of Massachusetts adults had a at least bachelor’s degree, the highest educational attainment rate in the nation. The rate had also increased by nearly a full percentage point from 2013, one of the largest increases compared with other states. In 2013, the state also had the most educated population — more than two in five adults had completed college. While people with higher education generally have higher incomes, this was especially the case in the most educated state. Median earnings for college educated state residents were $57,451 last year, the fourth highest in the country. High education spending may have played a role in the state’s high collegiate attainment rate. The state spent nearly $14,500 per pupil in 2013, the seventh highest such expenditure compared with other states.

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2. Colorado
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
38.3%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 90.5%
> 2014 median household income: $61,303 (12th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $48,818 (12th highest)

In Colorado, 38.3% of adults had at least a bachelor’s degree, the second highest collegiate attainment rate nationwide. States with high proportions of college-educated adults almost always had similarly strong high school attainment rates. In Colorado, 90.5% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the 14th highest rate nationwide. Higher college attainment rates are associated with higher income levels. This was especially the case in Colorado, where the median household income was $61,303 — the 12th highest in the country.

3. Maryland
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
38.2%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 89.6%
> 2014 median household income: $73,971 (the highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $59,691 (the highest)

More than 38% of Maryland adults had at least a bachelor’s degree last year compared to 30.1% nationally. Higher college attainment rates usually go hand in hand with higher income levels. This was especially the case in Maryland, where the median household income was $73,971 — the highest median income in the country. High paying jobs often require high levels of education. In Maryland, 14.9% of workers were employed in traditionally high-paying professional scientific jobs, the highest share of people employed in such professions.

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4. Connecticut
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
38.0%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 90.1%
> 2014 median household income: $70,048 (4th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $61,087 (4th highest)

Last year, 38% of Connecticut adults had completed at least a bachelor’s degree, the fourth highest collegiate attainment rate in the country. Connecticut college graduates earned more than $61,000 in 2014, the highest median earnings for college graduates in any state. One in every 10 Connecticut households had an annual income of at least $200,000, the second highest share in the nation. In Connecticut, 11.2% of workers were employed in traditionally high-paying professional scientific jobs, one of the highest such percentages in any state.

5. New Jersey
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
37.4%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 89.1%
> 2014 median household income: $71,919 (2nd highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $60,575 (2nd highest)

More than 37% of New Jersey adults had at least a bachelor’s degree last year compared to 30.1% of the nation’s adults. Nationwide, higher college attainment rates are associated with higher income levels because high-paying jobs often require high levels of education. In New Jersey, 13.1% of workers were employed in traditionally high-paying professional scientific jobs, one of the highest such percentages of any state. Partly as a result, New Jersey residents were wealthier than most Americans generally. The typical household earned $71,919, the second highest median income in the country. In particular, residents with advanced degrees were wealthier than their similarly educated peers elsewhere. The average state resident with a graduate or professional degree earned $81,156, the highest such income level in the nation.

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6. Virginia
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
36.7%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 88.5%
> 2014 median household income: $64,902 (8th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $55,797 (8th highest)

As in most well-educated states, Virginia’s college attainment rate improved slightly from 2013. In 2014, 36.7% of Virginia adults had at least a bachelor’s degree, an improvement of slightly more than half a percentage point from the previous year. Higher levels of education likely led to higher incomes for many state residents. A typical household in Virginia earned $64,902 last year, one of the highest median incomes in the nation. State spending on education is traditionally linked with high educational attainment rates. Though Virginia had the sixth highest collegiate educational attainment rate, it spent just $10,960 per student in 2013, only $260 more than the amount spent on the average American public school student.

7. New Hampshire
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
35.0%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 92.2%
> 2014 median household income: $66,532 (7th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $51,965 (7th highest)

In New Hampshire, which had one of the highest college attainment rates, 92.2% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the fifth highest rate in the country. Nationwide, higher college attainment rates are associated with higher income levels — and New Hampshire is no different. A typical household in New Hampshire earned $66,532 last year, one of the highest median incomes in the nation. A better-educated workforce is more likely to find work than one with more unskilled workers. In New Hampshire, the 2014 unemployment rate of 4.3% was the seventh lowest in the country.

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8. Vermont
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
34.9%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 92.0%
> 2014 median household income: $54,166 (20th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $42,228 (20th highest)

States with high proportions of college-educated adults almost always also had similarly strong high school attainment rates. In Vermont, nearly 35% of adults had at least a bachelor’s degree and 92.0% had at least a high school diploma, each the eighth highest rate nationwide. A better-educated workforce is more likely to find work than one with less-skilled workers. This may have been the case in Vermont, where the unemployment rate of 4.1% was the fifth lowest in the country in 2014. Vermont invested heavily in its public education system. The Green Mountain State spent $16,377 per pupil on education in 2013, a higher expenditure than in all but four other states.

9. New York
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
34.5%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 85.7%
> 2014 median household income: $58,878 (16th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $53,280 (16th highest)

New York spends more money on education per student than any other state. Public school funding reached nearly $20,000 per pupil in 2013. In contrast, the national average spending per pupil in 2013 was just $10,700. High-paying jobs often require high levels of education. In New York, which had the ninth highest college attainment rate, 11.5% of workers were employed in traditionally high-paying professional, scientific jobs, also one of the highest such shares. States with high proportions of college-educated adults also often had similarly strong high school attainment rates, although this was not always the case. While New York had one of the highest college attainment rates, just 85.7% of adults had at least a high school diploma, one of the lowest rates in the country.

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10. Minnesota
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
34.3%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 92.6%
> 2014 median household income: $61,481 (10th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $51,226 (10th highest)

Like in just nine other states, more than one-third of adults in Minnesota had at least a bachelor’s degree. States with high proportions of college-educated adults almost always also had similarly strong high school attainment rates. In Minnesota, 92.6% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the second highest rate nationwide after only Alaska. Highly educated populations also tend to report higher incomes. A typical household in Minnesota earned $61,481 last year, one of the highest median incomes in the nation. A better-educated workforce is also more likely to find work than one with more unskilled workers. Perhaps as a result, Minnesota’s unemployment rate of 4.1% in 2014 was the fifth lowest in the country.

11. Washington
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
33.1%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 90.4%
> 2014 median household income: $61,366 (11th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $54,844 (11th highest)

States with high proportions of college-educated adults almost always also had similarly strong high school attainment rates. In Washington, 90.4% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the 15th highest rate nationwide. High-paying jobs often require high levels of education. In Washington, 12.4% of workers were employed in traditionally high-paying professional, scientific jobs, the eighth highest such share. Higher college attainment rates are associated with the higher income levels of occupations in these fields. This was especially the case in Washington, where 33% of the adults had a college degree and the median household income was $61,366 — each some of the highest such figures in the country.

12. Illinois
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
32.8%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 88.2%
> 2014 median household income: $57,444 (17th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $51,638 (17th highest)

In Illinois, 88.2% of adults had at least a high school diploma, slightly more than the national attainment rate of 86.9%. However, almost 33% of Illinois residents had at least a bachelor’s degree, the 12th highest rate in the country. This may have been partially due to state spending on public education. Illinois spent an average of $12,288 per student, the 13th highest spending per pupil of any state. However, inequitable distribution of school funding has altered just how much each Illinois student has benefited from education spending across the state.

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13. California
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
31.7%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 82.1%
> 2014 median household income: $61,933 (9th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $55,900 (9th highest)

In California, 32% of the adults had a college degree and the median household income was $61,933 — each some of the higher figures in the country. Workers with college degrees tend to earn significantly more than those without, and this was especially the case in California. Last year, state residents with at least a bachelor’s degree earned $55,900 — significantly more than similarly-educated Americans who, nationwide, had median earnings of $50,450. High paying jobs often require high levels of education. In California, 12.9% of workers were employed in traditionally high-paying professional and scientific jobs, one of the highest such shares.

14. Kansas
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
31.5%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 90.3%
> 2014 median household income: $52,504 (25th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $46,785 (25th lowest)

In Kansas, only one in 10 residents did not graduate from high school. At 90.3%, Kansas had the 16th highest high school educational attainment rate of any state. Kansas was slightly ahead of the rest of the country in measures of higher education. Last year, 31.5% of Kansas adults had at least a bachelor’s degree, 1.4 percentage points higher than the national rate. Kansas spent an average of $9,828 on each student in 2013, about $900 less than the national average spending. Extreme budget cuts and teacher layoffs may make the coming year particularly challenging for the state’s primary and secondary education systems.

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15. Utah
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
31.1%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 91.4%
> 2014 median household income: $60,922 (13th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $45,861 (13th highest)

States with high proportions of college-educated adults almost always also had similarly strong high school attainment rates. In Utah, 91.4% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the 12th highest rate nationwide. On a national scale, higher college attainment rates are associated with higher income levels. This was especially true in Utah, where 31% of the adults had a college degree, and the median household income was $60,922 — each some of the highest such figures in the country. A better-educated workforce is more likely to find work than one with more unskilled workers. Perhaps as a result, Utah’s unemployment rate of 3.8% in 2014 was the fourth lowest in the country.

16. Hawaii
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
31.0%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 91.7%
> 2014 median household income: $69,592 (5th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $49,725 (5th highest)

In Hawaii, 91.7% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the ninth highest rate nationwide. Nationwide, higher college attainment rates are associated with higher income levels. This was especially the case in Hawaii, where 31% of the adults had a college degree, and the median household income was $69,592 — each some of the highest such figures in the country. Although Hawaii had a relatively large share college educated adults, the state was one of six where the percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree actually decreased from 2013 to 2014.

17. Oregon
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
30.8%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 89.7%
> 2014 median household income: $51,075 (23rd lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $42,084 (23rd lowest)

Typically, in states where the educational attainment rate was similar to the national average, the median household income was also roughly in line with the national median income level. In Oregon, however, educational attainment rates were slightly higher than the national average and median incomes were slightly lower. Across the state, 30.8% of adults had received a bachelor’s degree, only slightly more than the corresponding national figure of 30.1%. The state’s median household income of $51,075 however, was slightly less than the national median income of $53,657. Despite a better than average bachelor’s degree attainment rate, 16.6% of Oregon residents lived in poverty, the 14th highest poverty rate in the country. Almost 19% of Oregon households received food stamps, the highest recipiency rate in the country.

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18. Delaware
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
30.6%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 89.0%
> 2014 median household income: $59,716 (14th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $51,577 (14th highest)

Nationwide, higher college attainment rates are associated with higher income levels. This was especially the case in Delaware, where nearly 31% of the adults had a bachelor’s degree, and the median household income was $59,716 — each some of the highest such figures in the country. High college attainment rates have also been traditionally tied to high investment in public education. Delaware spent an average of $13,833 per student in 2013, the 10th highest average spending per student of any state. Delaware also had the highest percentage of the workforce employed in finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing — at nearly one in 10 workers — a traditionally high paying industry that requires better-educated workers.

19. Rhode Island
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
30.4%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 85.8%
> 2014 median household income: $54,891 (19th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $49,218 (19th highest)

As in many other states where the bachelor’s degree attainment rate was near the national average, the median household income in Rhode Island was also roughly in line with the national income level. Rhode Island’s median household income of $54,891 was about $1,000 higher than the national median income. The percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree increased in most states in 2014 compared to 2013, as it did nationwide — by half a percentage point. The rate declined in only six states. In Rhode Island the rate decreased by a full 2 percentage points, the largest decrease of any state. The state’s rate of adults with a high school diploma remained the same.

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20. Nebraska
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
29.5%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 90.3%
> 2014 median household income: $52,686 (24th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $43,402 (24th highest)

Statewide educational attainment is roughly tied to median household income, as higher education qualifies graduates for higher-paying jobs, and higher incomes can make college education more affordable. States with educational attainment rates near the national average often have median household incomes in line with the national average, and vice versa. Nebraska’s median household income level of $52,686 was about $1,000 less than the national median income of $53,657. Likewise, 29.5% of Nebraska residents had at least a bachelor’s degree, 0.6 percentage points less than the national collegiate educational attainment rate.

21. Maine
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
29.4%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 91.7%
> 2014 median household income: $49,462 (19th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $40,695 (19th lowest)

States with high proportions of college-educated adults almost always also had similarly strong high school attainment rates. In Maine, 29.4% of adults had at least bachelor’s degree, the 21st highest rate in the nation. However, 91.7% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the ninth highest rate nationwide. In most states where the collegiate attainment rate was similar to the national rate, the median household income was also similar to the national median income. Maine was an exception. The typical household in Maine was $49,462 in 2014, nearly $4,200 less than the national median income of $53,657.

22. Montana
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
29.3%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 92.6%
> 2014 median household income: $46,328 (10th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $37,487 (10th lowest)

Montana’s collegiate attainment rate was roughly in line with the national rate, with 29.3% of adults having earned at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to the national rate of 30.1%. While it might be expected that the state would have a similarly average share of high school graduates, this was not the case. In Montana, 92.6% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the second highest rate nationwide. As in many other states where the educational attainment rate was about the same as the national rate, school funding was also roughly in line with the national average spending. Montana’s public school system spent $10,625 per pupil in 2013, almost exactly the same amount as the nationwide average of $10,700 per pupil.

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23. Georgia
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
29.1%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 85.6%
> 2014 median household income: $49,321 (17th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $48,679 (17th lowest)

Only 85.6% of Georgia adults had graduated from high school in 2014, the 11th lowest secondary educational attainment rate in the country. This educational attainment rate did not change from 2013 to 2014. Low high school diploma attainment rates are traditionally tied with high poverty rates, and at 18.3%, Georgia had the seventh highest poverty rate in the country. Nevertheless, 29.1% of Georgia residents had at least bachelor’s degree — average compared to other states.

24. Pennsylvania
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
29.0%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 89.4%
> 2014 median household income: $53,234 (22nd highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $50,017 (22nd highest)

Both educational attainment and median household income in Pennsylvania were roughly in line with the corresponding national figures. In the Keystone State, 29.0% of adults had at least a bachelor’s degree, slightly less than the 30.1% of adults with similar educational attainment across the country. Correspondingly, the typical Pennsylvania household earned about $53,234 last year, only a few hundred dollars less than the $53,657 the typical American household earned. Though Pennsylvania’s educational attainment rates were about average, the state invested much more money than most states in its public schools. Pennsylvania spent about $13,900 per public school student in 2013, more than all but eight other states.

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25. North Carolina
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
28.7%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 86.4%
> 2014 median household income: $46,556 (11th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $44,021 (11th lowest)

North Carolina’s Research Triangle, which includes Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, is a region with a substantial cluster of research, medicine, and technology jobs. Despite this, North Carolina’s percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree ranked 25th in the country. While North Carolina’s bachelor’s degree attainment rate was roughly in line with the national average, the typical North Carolina household brought in much less than the typical American household. In 2014, median household income in the state was $46,556, significantly less than corresponding national figure of $53,657. North Carolina invests relatively little in public education. In 2013, the state spent an average of $8,390 per student, the ninth lowest amount in the country.

26. Wisconsin
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
28.4%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 91.4%
> 2014 median household income: $52,622 (25th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $47,027 (25th highest)

In Wisconsin, 28.4% of residents had at least a bachelor’s degree, about 1.7 percentage points less than the national rate. As educational attainment was slightly below the national average, so was income. The median household income in Wisconsin was $52,622, about $1,000 less than the national median income. Despite slightly less than average collegiate educational attainment and household income, Wisconsin had a particularly high high school attainment rate. In Wisconsin, 91.4% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the 12th highest rate nationwide.

27. Alaska
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
28.0%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 92.9%
> 2014 median household income: $71,583 (3rd highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $56,042 (3rd highest)

Though Alaska was home to the highest percentage of adults with at least a high school diploma, only 28.0% of adults in the state had at least a bachelor’s degree, lower than the nation wide rate of 30.1%. Despite the relatively small proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree, incomes in Alaska were among the highest in the country. The median household income in Alaska of $71,583 was nearly $18,000 higher than the $53,657 the typical American household earned. Only 3.9% of Alaskan households earned less than $10,000 annually, the second lowest such rate in the country after New Hampshire.

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28. South Dakota
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
27.8%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 91.7%
> 2014 median household income: $50,979 (22nd lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $40,316 (22nd lowest)

In 2014, 27.8% of adults in South Dakota had at least a bachelor’s degree, an increase from 2013 when the corresponding figure was 26.6%. Despite the 1.2 percentage point increase, the second largest in the nation, the collegiate educational attainment rate remained below the corresponding national attainment rate of 30.1%. However, higher levels of education had less of an impact on income in South Dakota than in any other state. Median earnings for those with a graduate or professional degree were only about $49,600 — less than in any other state in the country and significantly less the corresponding national figure of $66,175.

29. Texas
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
27.8%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 82.2%
> 2014 median household income: $53,035 (23rd highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $51,491 (23rd highest)

While Texas’s college attainment rate was slightly below the national rate, it was closer to the national average than the state’s high school attainment rates. Just 82.2% of the state’s adults had a high school diploma, the second lowest rate in the country. While Texas’s educational attainment rate was below the national rate by multiple measures, the median household income in Texas was roughly in line with the national rate. The typical household in Texas made $53,035 last year, roughly $600 less than the national median of $53,657.

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30. Iowa
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
27.7%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 92.1%
> 2014 median household income: $53,712 (21st highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $46,851 (21st highest)

Iowa’s collegiate educational attainment rate climbed 1.3 percentage points to 27.7% in 2014 from 26.5% in 2013, the largest increase in the country. Despite this increase, Iowa’s collegiate attainment rate was still 2.4 percentage points lower than the corresponding national rate. Unlike its educational attainment, Iowa’s median income was almost the same as the national median income. At $53,712, it was only $55 more than the typical American household’s 2014 income. Despite unremarkable collegiate attainment rates and income levels, 92.1% of adult residents had at least a high school diploma, the seventh highest such rate nationwide.

31. Arizona
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
27.6%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 86.1%
> 2014 median household income: $50,068 (21st lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $46,407 (21st lowest)

Just as high income levels are associated with better educated populations, low education levels are linked with relatively low incomes. In Arizona, both the educational attainment rate and median household income were below the corresponding nationwide figures. A typical household in Arizona earned $50,068, about $3,600 less than what the typical American household earned. Similarly, only 27.6% of adults in Arizona had at least a bachelor’s degree, less than the 30.1% of American’s with similar educational attainment. Arizona invested much less in public education than most other states. The Grand Canyon State spent only about $7,200 per public school student in 2013, less than all but two other states.

32. Missouri
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
27.5%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 88.9%
> 2014 median household income: $48,363 (15th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $44,221 (15th lowest)

Just as high income levels are associated with better educated populations, low education levels are linked with relatively low incomes. In Missouri, one of the less educated states, a typical household earned just $48,363, one of the lowest median incomes nationwide. Funding for primary and secondary education has traditionally contributed to an area’s high school school graduation rates. While Missouri’s school systems spent $9,597 per student in 2013, about $1,000 less than the national average spending, the secondary educational attainment rate of nearly 89% was 0.2 percentage points higher than the national rate.

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33. Michigan
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
27.4%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 89.9%
> 2014 median household income: $49,847 (20th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $48,731 (20th lowest)

In Michigan, the bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 27.4% was 2.7 percentage points below the national rate. A typical Michigan household earned just $49,847, significantly lower than the median national income of $53,657. While low educational attainment is associated with low income in every part of the country, low educational attainment in Michigan is more detrimental to income than in most places. Michigan residents without a high school diploma earned only $18,457, a lower figure than in all but two other states.

34. North Dakota
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
27.4%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 92.2%
> 2014 median household income: $59,029 (15th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $42,262 (15th highest)

States with high proportions of college-educated adults usually also had similarly strong high school attainment rates. In North Dakota, however, which had the 17th lowest college attainment rate, 92.2% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the fifth highest rate nationwide. North Dakota is also one of the rare states to have relatively high income and low poverty despite the poor college graduation rates. The state’s poverty rate of 11.5% was ninth lowest in the country. This disparity may be due to the types of jobs available in the state. Only 2% of the nation’s workers were employed in agriculture or natural resources extraction occupations. In North Dakota, 10.5% of all workers were employed in the sector, primarily from the state’s booming natural gas extraction industry. Extraction occupations can pay well without requiring college educations.

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35. Florida
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
27.3%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 87.2%
> 2014 median household income: $47,463 (12th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $43,378 (12th lowest)

Florida did not invest much in its public education system. The Sunshine State spent just over $8,400 per public school student in 2013, less than all but nine other states. Just as high income levels are associated with better educated populations, low education levels are linked with relatively low incomes. In Florida, where the bachelor’s degree attainment rate was about 3 percentage points lower than the national rate, a typical household earned just $47,463, one of the lowest median incomes nationwide. Retail jobs, which are traditionally low paying, are much less likely to require college educated workers. In Florida, 13.3% of the working population was employed in the sector versus 11.5% of the nation’s workers.

36. Ohio
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
26.6%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 89.4%
> 2014 median household income: $49,308 (16th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $48,648 (16th lowest)

Just as high income levels are associated with better educated populations, low education levels are linked with relatively low incomes. In Ohio, one of the least educated states, a typical household earned just $49,308, one of the lower median incomes nationwide. Spending on public education often correlates with educational attainment rates, but that was not the case in Ohio. In 2013, the Ohio public school system spent $11,197 per pupil, above the national rate of $10,700 per student.

37. Wyoming
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
26.6%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 92.6%
> 2014 median household income: $57,055 (18th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $43,572 (18th highest)

In 2014, 26.6% of Wyoming’s adults had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 30.1% of U.S. adults. States with lower proportions of college-educated adults usually had similarly low high school attainment rates. In Wyoming, however, 92.6% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the second highest rate nationwide. While most states with lower educational attainment rates tended to have lower incomes, Wyoming’s median household income was higher than the national median. One possible explanation for this may be the state’s unique industrial composition. Nationally, just 2% of workers were employed in agriculture or natural resources extraction occupations. In Wyoming, a nation-leading 12.7% of workers were employed in these occupations, which can pay more than most jobs that do not require college educations.

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38. New Mexico
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
26.4%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 84.2%
> 2014 median household income: $44,803 (8th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $42,412 (8th lowest)

In New Mexico, only 84.2% of adults had graduated high school, the fifth lowest secondary educational attainment rate in the country. The share of New Mexicans with a bachelor’s degree of 26.4% was also one of the lowest collegiate attainment rates in the country. Just as the nation’s highest incomes are typically found among highly educated populations, low education levels are linked with relatively low incomes. In New Mexico, one of the least educated states, a typical household earned just $44,803, one of the lowest median incomes nationwide. And at 21.3%, New Mexico had the second highest poverty rate in the nation.

39. South Carolina
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
26.3%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 86.1%
> 2014 median household income: $45,238 (9th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $45,253 (9th lowest)

Just as high income levels are associated with better educated populations, low education levels are linked with relatively low incomes. In South Carolina, which had a relatively low college attainment rate, a typical household earned just $45,238, one of the lowest median incomes nationwide. Not only does a college education often lead to higher incomes, but also a healthy financial situation is often a precursor to attending college. South Carolina’s poverty rate of 18.0%, which was the 11th highest nationwide, may have made pursuing higher education more difficult for many low income residents.

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40. Tennessee
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
25.3%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 85.8%
> 2014 median household income: $44,361 (6th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $43,654 (6th lowest)

Residents with college degrees are more likely to be able to find work than those with a high school diploma or less. Perhaps as a result of Tennessee’s low rate of educational attainment, the state had an unemployment rate of 6.7%, versus the national jobless rate of 6.2%. Low education levels often correlate with low household incomes. In Tennessee, one of the least educated states, a typical household earned just $44,361, one of the lowest median incomes nationwide. While the precise relationship is hotly contested, low public school spending is often associated with poor educational attainment, and this was also the case in Tennessee. The state’s public school system spent just $8,207 per pupil in 2013, the sixth lowest expenditure in the country.

41. Idaho
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
25.0%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 90.1%
> 2014 median household income: $47,861 (14th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $41,423 (14th lowest)

Just as high income levels are associated with better educated populations, low education levels are linked with relatively low incomes. In Idaho, where only one in four adults had at least a bachelor’s degree, a typical household earned just $47,861, one of the lower median incomes nationwide. Idaho was one of only two states where the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree decreased from 2013 to 2014. Low educational attainment across the state could be due to the state’s relatively low public education spending. Idaho spent just under $6,800 per student in 2013, less than every other state except for Utah.

42. Indiana
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
24.7%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 88.4%
> 2014 median household income: $49,446 (18th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $44,424 (18th lowest)

Indiana’s college attainment rate increased 0.9 percentage points from 2013 to 2014 the fifth largest improvement of all states. Nationwide, large improvements in educational attainment were rare because substantial resources are needed to attend college, which itself provides the qualifications for higher-paying jobs. Just as the nation’s highest incomes are typically found among highly educated populations, low education levels are linked with relatively low incomes. In Indiana, one of the least educated states, a typical household earned just $49,446, one of the lower median incomes nationwide.

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43. Oklahoma
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
24.2%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 87.3%
> 2014 median household income: $47,529 (13th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $43,293 (13th lowest)

Whether high spending on education actually leads to higher achievement a is hotly debated issue among researchers. How the resources are spent is perhaps a more significant predictor of success. Still, the states with the lowest college attainment levels tended to have similarly low per pupil funding. Oklahoma spent $7,672 per pupil in 2013, nearly the lowest educational expenditure compared with all states. Just as high income levels are associated with better educated populations, low education levels are linked with relatively low incomes. In Oklahoma, one of the least educated states, a typical household earned just $47,529, one of the lower median incomes nationwide.

44. Alabama
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
23.5%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 84.7%
> 2014 median household income: $42,830 (4th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $45,874 (4th lowest)

Residents with college degrees are more likely to be able to find work than those with a high school diploma or less. Perhaps as a result of Alabama’s lower rate of educational attainment, the state had an unemployment rate of 6.8%, the 10th highest rate in the country. Most states with low college attainment rates had low incomes, and Alabama was no exception. The typical household in the state earned $42,830 in 2014, the fourth lowest income in the country. Retail jobs, which tend to be low-paying, are much less likely to require college educated workers. In Alabama, 12.3% of the working population was employed in the sector, also the 10th highest share in the country.

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45. Nevada
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
23.1%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 85.1%
> 2014 median household income: $51,450 (24th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $45,505 (24th lowest)

Only 23.1% of adults in Nevada had a bachelor’s degree or higher, significantly less than the corresponding national rate of 30.1%. Residents with college degrees are more likely to be able to find work than those with just a high school diploma or less. Perhaps as a result of Nevada’s lower rate of educational attainment, the state had an unemployment rate of 7.8%, versus the 2014 national unemployment rate of 6.2%. The state’s median income of $51,450 was lower than the national median income and likely the consequence of the lower education rates. Traditionally lower paying retail jobs are much less likely to require college educated workers. In Nevada, 12.4% of the working population was employed in the sector versus 11.5% of the nation’s workers.

46. Louisiana
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
22.9%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 83.6%
> 2014 median household income: $44,555 (7th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $46,903 (7th lowest)

Educational attainment is tied to wealth, and areas with low education attainment rates are likely to have low income levels. Louisiana is no exception. Just 83.6% of Louisiana adults had graduated high school, and just 22.9% had a bachelor’s degree — the fourth and fifth lowest such educational attainment rates in the country, respectively. Also, the median household income in Louisiana was $44,555, the seventh lowest of any state. Almost one in five Louisianians lived below the poverty line, the third highest poverty rate in the country. State spending on education is often associated with better educational outcomes. Although Louisiana spent $10,490 per student in 2013, roughly in line with the national average expenditure of $10,700 per pupil, it had one of the least educated populations in the country.

47. Kentucky
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
22.2%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 84.5%
> 2014 median household income: $42,958 (5th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $43,798 (5th lowest)

The cost of attending a U.S. college is extremely high, and even qualified graduates of well-funded secondary schools have difficulty pursuing higher education. Socioeconomic factors likely played a role in Kentucky residents’ low education levels — the state had the fourth lowest college attainment rate last year. The state’s poverty rate of 19.1% and the median household income of $42,958 were each the fifth worst nationwide.

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48. Arkansas
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
21.4%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 85.3%
> 2014 median household income: $41,262 (3rd lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $43,020 (3rd lowest)

The college attainment rate in Arkansas increased by nearly a full percentage point from 20.6% in 2013 to 21.4% in 2014. Despite the increase, Arkansas was home to the third smallest share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree in the United States. Just as high income levels are associated with better educated populations, low education levels are linked with relatively low incomes. In Arkansas, a typical household earned just $41,262, the third lowest median income in the nation. Traditionally lower paying retail jobs are much less likely to require college educated workers. In Arkansas, 13.4% of its working population is employed in the sector, significantly more than the 11.5% of the nation’s workers.

49. Mississippi
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
21.1%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 82.8%
> 2014 median household income: $39,680 (the lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $41,004 (the lowest)

Residents with college degrees are more likely to be able to find work than those with just a high school diploma or less. Perhaps as a result of Mississippi’s lower rate of educational attainment, the state had an unemployment rate of 7.8%, which is tied for Nevada as the highest in the country. Retail jobs usually do not require a college education. In Mississippi, 12.4% of its working population is employed in the sector, the seventh highest share nationwide of workers employed in the traditionally low-paying sector.

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50. West Virginia
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree:
19.2%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 85.2%
> 2014 median household income: $41,059 (2nd lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $40,963 (2nd lowest)

Less than one in five adults in West Virginia had a college degree, the only state where this was the case and the lowest proportion in the nation. Unlike most states with the lowest educational attainment rates, West Virginia had relatively high school spending. West Virginia spent $11,132 per public school student in 2013, higher than the average national education expenditure of $10,700. Yet, the state’s high school attainment rate — just 85% of adults had at least a high school diploma — was nearly the lowest in the country. Retail jobs are much less likely to require college educated workers. In West Virginia, 13.1% of the working population was employed in the traditionally low-paying sector, versus 11.5% of the nation’s workers. The state had the second-lowest median household income in the country, at $41,059.

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