Special Report

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

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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