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

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Washington State University, Pullman
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11. Washington
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 34.2%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 90.8%
> 2015 median household income: $64,129 (10th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $55,795 (7th highest)

Over the last year, the share of adults in Washington with at least a high school diploma rose from 90.4% to 90.8%, one of the highest educational attainment rates in the country. A college education goes a long way in Washington. The typical worker with a bachelor’s degree earns $55,795 a year, the seventh most in the nation and nearly $15,000 more than the median earnings for all workers in the state. College graduates are likely among state households earnings at least $200,000 annually. The 6.8% of households earnings such high incomes is one of the largest shares of any state.

university_of_chicago_harper_library
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12. Illinois
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.9%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 88.6%
> 2015 median household income: $59,588 (18th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $52,369 (10th highest)

In Illinois, 32.9% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the larger shares nationwide. Because of their high educational levels many Illinois residents likely qualify for high-paying jobs that often require college degrees. For example, 7.3% of workers are employed in a finance or insurance position, and 11.7% are employed in a professional, scientific, and management occupation, both larger shares than in the corresponding national workforce composition. The typical Illinois worker with a bachelor’s degree earns $52,369, the 10th highest such figure of any state, and about $12,200 more than the typical state individual earnings.

Brown University, Rhode Island
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13. Rhode Island
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.7%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 87.7%
> 2015 median household income: $58,073 (19th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $50,880 (15th highest)

Over the last year, the share of adults in Rhode Island with at least a bachelor’s degree rose from 30.4% to 32.7%, one of the largest shares in the country today. With more college-educated adults, more workers likely quality for better-paying jobs. Rhode Island’s unemployment rate fell from 7.7% in 2014 to 6.0% in 2015, the most substantial improvement of any state in that time other than Michigan. The median household income in the state also increased from $54,978 in 2014 to $58,073 a year, one of the higher incomes of any state.

University of California Berkeley Campus Buildings
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14. California
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.3%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 82.2%
> 2015 median household income: $64,500 (9th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $57,282 (5th highest)

In California, 32.3% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the highest educational attainment rates in the country. While strong college attainment rates tend to coincide with strong high school attainment, in California just 82.2% of adults have a high school diploma, the smallest share of any state. The high college attainment rate in California may largely be the result of a large volume of college graduates moving to the state. The typical college graduate in the state earns $57,282 annually, the fifth most of any state and nearly $20,000 more than California residents of all educational backgrounds.

Beaverton High School, Beaverton, Oregon
Source: Wikimedia Commons
15. Oregon

15. Oregon
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.2%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 90.0%
> 2015 median household income: $54,148 (25th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $44,049 (12th lowest)

In Oregon, 32.2% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 30.6% of American adults with similar educational attainment. While higher levels of education tend to lead to higher incomes, in Oregon the typical college graduate earns just $44,049 a year, about $7,000 less than the typical American with a bachelor’s degree. One reason for the relatively low earnings among college graduates in Oregon may be the relatively large share of unemployed workers in the state. At 5.7%, Oregon’s unemployment rate is among the higher jobless rates in the country.