Special Report

America's Most and Least Educated States

Source: Thinkstock

41. Tennessee
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.1%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $46,065 (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $48,547 (8th lowest)
> 2016 unemployment: 4.8% (25th highest)

While the share of adults with a college education climbed 0.7 percentage points nationwide in 2016, it remained effectively unchanged in Tennessee. Today, only 26.1% of state residents 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 31.3% of adults nationwide.

Median incomes tend to be higher in states where more adults have gone to college. In Tennessee, the typical household earns only $48,547 a year, well below the median income nationwide of $57,617.

Source: Thinkstock

42. Indiana
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 25.6%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $48,790 (24th highest)
> Median household income: $52,314 (16th lowest)
> 2016 unemployment: 4.4% (21st lowest)

Only about 1 in 4 adults in Indiana have a bachelor’s degree, a smaller share than in the vast majority of states. A college education may not be necessary for a relatively large share of the labor force in the state, however. Some 18.8% of Indiana’s workers are employed in manufacturing, the largest share of any state. Far from struggling economically, only 4.4% of Indiana’s labor force was out of work in 2016, well below the 4.9% annual U.S. unemployment rate.

Source: Thinkstock

43. Oklahoma
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 25.2%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $44,977 (9th lowest)
> Median household income: $49,176 (9th lowest)
> 2016 unemployment: 4.9% (20th highest)

In keeping with the broader national trend, the share of adults in Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree climbed over half a percentage point in 2016. However, breaking from the national trend, Oklahoma’s economy worsened in 2016, as annual unemployment spiked from 4.4% to 4.9%. Meanwhile, unemployment nationwide fell from 5.3% to 4.9%. States with better educated populations tend to have healthier economies. In Oklahoma, only 25.2% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, well below the 31.3% share of adults nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

44. Alabama
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 24.7%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $48,304 (25th highest)
> Median household income: $46,257 (5th lowest)
> 2016 unemployment: 6.0% (4th highest)

Alabama is one of only seven states where fewer than 1 in every 4 residents 25 and older have a college degree. Many states with low educational attainment rates have lagging economies — and Alabama is among them. Nearly 10% of households in the state earn less than $10,000 a year, and 6.0% of Alabama’s labor force is out of a job, each among the highest such shares of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

45. Nevada
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.5%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $46,908 (19th lowest)
> Median household income: $55,180 (24th lowest)
> 2016 unemployment: 5.7% (8th highest)

Only 23.5% of adults in Nevada have a bachelor’s degree, one of the smallest shares of any state. However, Nevada’s economy is such that a highly educated workforce may not be necessary. Some 25.6% of workers in the state are employed in the arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation sector — by far the highest such share of any state and well above the 9.8% of workers in the sector nationwide. Jobs in the sector typically do not require a college education.

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