Special Report

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

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.