Special Report

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

Columns in front of University of Missouri building
Source: Thinkstock

31. Missouri
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 27.8%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 88.9%
> 2015 median household income: $50,238 (15th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $45,607 (16th lowest)

Missouri’s high school and bachelor’s attainment levels effectively stayed the same last year. The state remains several points below the corresponding national rates. States with fewer adults holding college degrees also tend to have lower incomes, and Missouri is no exception. The typical state household income of $50,238 a year is more than $5,000 below the national median household income of $55,775.

University of Michigan
Source: Wikimedia Commons

32. Michigan
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 27.8%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 90.1%
> 2015 median household income: $51,084 (18th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $49,839 (19th highest)

Michigan’s annual unemployment rate fell by 1.9 percentage points in 2015 compared to 2014, the largest improvement of any state. The 2015 jobless rate of 5.4% was still just in line with the national rate of 5.3%. The percentage of Michigan adults with at least a bachelor’s degree also increased slightly over that time. At 27.8%, the college attainment rate still trails the national percentage of 30.6%.

Arizona State University
Source: Thinkstock

33. Arizona
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 27.7%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 86.1%
> 2015 median household income: $51,492 (20th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $49,801 (20th highest)

At 27.7%, Arizona’s share of adults with a bachelor’s degree is nearly 3 percentage points below the national rate of 30.6%. For many, a college degree creates opportunities to higher paying jobs, and Arizona is a case in point. The typical Arizona worker earns $35,016 a year. The median earnings of those workers who have a bachelor’s degree, however, is nearly $50,000 a year. That close to $15,000 difference is one of the largest of any state.

Brandon Valley High School, South Dakota
Source: Wikimedia Commons

34. South Dakota
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 27.5%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 91.1%
> 2015 median household income: $53,017 (23rd lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $41,273 (5th lowest)

College level educational attainment tends to be higher in states where earnings for workers with higher education are also relatively high. In South Dakota, the typical bachelor’s degree holder earns $41,273 annually, only around $7,000 more than the median wage of a typical South Dakota worker with any level of education. The difference is nearly the smallest of any state, which could partially explain the state’s relatively low college attainment rate — there appears to be relatively little to be gained, at least financially, from a college degree.

Randolph Hall, Historical Landmark Building, College of Charleston, South Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

35. South Carolina
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.8%
> Pct. of adults with at least a high school diploma: 86.3%
> 2015 median household income: $47,238 (8th lowest)
> Median earnings for bachelor degree holders: $44,151 (13th lowest)

Just 26.8% of South Carolina’s adults have a bachelor’s degree, 3.8 percentage points below the national figure. Educational attainment often reflects the types of jobs supported by a state economy. In South Carolina, a disproportionately high 13.9% of state workers are employed in retail, a sector that is much less likely to require a college degree as a prerequisite for employment. The typical person with a college degree tends to earn more, and those workers in the state who have a degree earn roughly $12,000 more a year than the typical state worker with any education level.

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