Special Report

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

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.

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