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

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University of North Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

26. North Carolina
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.4%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 86.6%
> 2015 median household income: $47,830 (10th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $46,171 (21st lowest)

The share of North Carolina’s adults with a bachelor’s degree increased by 0.7 percentage points last year to 29.7%, but it still falls short of the national corresponding rate of 30.6%. The state is similarly behind the nation in high school attainment, as 86.6% of North Carolina’s adults have a high school diploma compared to 87.1% of Americans 25 and over. For a state with just slightly lower educational attainment rates compared to nationwide rates, North Carolina has disproportionately lower incomes. The typical household earns $47,830 annually, the 10th lowest median household income among states.

University of North Dakota
Source: Wikimedia Commons

27. North Dakota
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.1%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 92.5%
> 2015 median household income: $60,557 (16th highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $45,787 (17th lowest)

Even with recent signs of weakness due to depressed oil prices, North Dakota continues to have among the most favorable job markets in the country. The state’s 2015 unemployment rate of 2.7% was the lowest of any state. The energy boom that largely explains North Dakota’s recent economic growth, and has offered jobs that do not typically require a bachelor’s degree. Even so, North Dakota’s college attainment rate of 29.1% rose significantly from last year while in most states education levels remained flat.

Melbourne High School, Florida
Source: Wikimedia Commons

28. Florida
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 28.4%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 87.6%
> 2015 median household income: $49,426 (13th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $42,714 (10th lowest)

Florida’s college attainment increased by 1.1 percentage point last year, more than in most states. Still, the state’s rate remains more than 2 percentage points below the national rate of 30.6%. College degrees tend to create opportunities for higher incomes, but the typical Floridian worker with a bachelor’s degree earns $42,714 a year, more than $8,000 below the median earnings for college graduates nationwide. Compared to earnings of state residents with any education background, however, Floridian bachelor’s degree holders earn $11,052 more a year.

Green Bay, Wisconsin
Source: Thinkstock

29. 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%
> 2015 median household income: $55,638 (23rd highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $47,383 (22nd highest)

Because one requires the other, states tend to rank similarly compared to the nation in both college and high school attainment among adults. Wisconsin breaks from this trend, however. The state’s college attainment rate is 2.2 percentage points below the national share of 30.6%, while its high school attainment rate of 91.4% is more than 4 percentage points above the national rate. While both educational attainment rates increased in a number of states, they remained effectively unchanged in Wisconsin.

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University Park, Texas
Source: Wikimedia Commons

30. Texas
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 28.4%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 82.4%
> 2015 median household income: $55,653 (22nd highest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $51,887 (12th highest)

Even for a state with a relatively low college attainment rate, the percentage of adults with at least a high school diploma, at 82.4%, is unusually low. Only California has a lower high school attainment rate. High educational attainment tends to mirror other encouraging socioeconomic measures. However, the relatively low percentage of adults in Texas with at least a bachelor’s degree and the state’s low health insurance coverage do not fit this pattern. The 17.1% of uninsured residents is by far the highest such rate of any state.