Special Report

America's Most and Least Educated States

6. Virginia
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 38.1%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $56,324 (8th highest)
> Median household income: $68,114 (8th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 4.0% (15th lowest)

A concentration of employment in high skill sectors is often indicative of higher educational attainment across a population. In Virginia, 15.4% of the labor force works in the professional, scientific, and management sector — the second largest share of any U.S. state. Employment in the sector is likely primarily fueled by the far larger than typical 38.1% of Virginians age 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree.

Source: Ken Lund / Flickr

7. New Hampshire
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 36.6%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $51,823 (14th highest)
> Median household income: $70,936 (7th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 2.8% (2nd lowest)

Not only do adults with a bachelor’s degree tend to have greater earnings potential, but they are also often more desirable candidates for employers. New Hampshire’s far greater than typical 36.6% bachelor’s degree attainment rate may partially explain the state’s healthy economy. An average of only 2.8% of New Hampshire’s labor force were out of a job in 2016, the second lowest annual unemployment rate among states, and well below the comparable 4.9% U.S. rate.

Source: Thinkstock

8. Vermont
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 36.4%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $42,338 (7th lowest)
> Median household income: $57,677 (20th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 3.3% (7th lowest)

Unlike the nation as a whole, the share of college-educated adults remained effectively unchanged in Vermont from 2015 to 2016. Still, 36.4% of Vermonters age 25 and up have at least a college degree, considerably larger than the 31.3% share of American adults. Though incomes tend to be higher in populations with greater educational attainment, the median household income in Vermont of $57,677 a year is roughly in line with the median household income nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

9. New York
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 35.7%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $56,868 (7th highest)
> Median household income: $62,909 (14th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 4.8% (25th highest)

Some 35.7% of adults in New York state have at least a four-year college degree, considerably more than the 31.3% share of American adults. Employment concentration by sector can often be indicative of education levels of a given population — and New York is no exception. Employment is higher than typical in New York in sectors that often demand at least a college education — like information and finance and insurance. Meanwhile, employment is less common in New York in sectors with less stringent educational standards like manufacturing and construction.

Source: Thinkstock

10. Washington
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 35.1%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $58,262 (6th highest)
> Median household income: $67,106 (10th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 5.4% (9th highest)

Washington state’s bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 35.1% is considerably higher than the 31.3% share of adults nationwide with at least a four-year college degree. States with higher bachelor’s degree attainment rates tend to have higher median incomes — and Washington is no exception. The typical household in the state earns $67,106 annually, about $9,500 more than the median household income nationwide.