Special Report

America's Most and Least Educated States

Source: Thinkstock

11. Minnesota
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 34.8%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $54,749 (10th highest)
> Median household income: $65,599 (13th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 3.9% (13th lowest)

In a break from the nationwide trend, the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree remained effectively unchanged in Minnesota from 2015 to 2016. Despite the slight uptick nationwide, the 34.8% share of adults in Minnesota with at least a four-year college diploma remains higher than in most states and than the 31.3% U.S. figure.

A better educated population is more likely to command higher salaries and less likely to face serious financial hardship. Only about 1 in every 10 Minnesota residents live below the poverty line, one of the smallest shares of any state and well below the 14.0% U.S. poverty rate.

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12. Rhode Island
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 34.1%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $52,045 (13th highest)
> Median household income: $60,596 (18th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 5.3% (13th highest)

Rhode Island is the second least educated state in the New England region. Still, 34.1% of adult residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, a larger share than in most states and well above the 31.3% share of adults nationwide.

States with high educational attainment rates typically have strong economies. Rhode Island is a notable exception, however. Some 5.3% of the state’s labor force is out of a work — a higher unemployment rate than in most states and the 4.9% annual U.S. rate.

Source: Thinkstock

13. Illinois
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 34.0%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $55,161 (9th highest)
> Median household income: $60,960 (16th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 5.9% (6th highest)

Most states that are home to a larger than average share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree have relatively strong economies. Illinois is an exception. Some 34.0% of state residents 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree, more than the 31.3% share of American adults. Despite the higher skilled talent pool for employers across the state to draw from, 5.9% of Illinois’ workers are out of a job — one of the highest unemployment rates of any state and well above the 4.9% annual U.S. unemployment rate.

Source: Thinkstock

14. California
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.9%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $60,121 (5th highest)
> Median household income: $67,739 (9th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 5.4% (9th highest)

Only 82.4% of adults in California have completed high school — the smallest share of any state. A high school diploma is a prerequisite for a college degree, but despite the poor high school diploma attainment rate, adults in California are more likely than most American adults to have a college education. Some 32.9% of Californians 25 and older have a four-year college degree compared to 31.3% of American adults nationwide.

A college education appears to be a worthwhile investment in California. The typical college graduate in the state earns about $30,000 more a year than the typical high school graduate — the largest such income gap of any state after New Jersey.

Source: Thinkstock

15. Kansas
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.8%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $46,772 (17th lowest)
> Median household income: $54,935 (23rd lowest)
> 2016 unemployment: 4.2% (18th lowest)

Across broad populations, areas with a larger share of college-educated adults tend to also report higher incomes. Kansas is a notable exception. Even though 32.8% of adults in the state have a four-year college degree compared to 31.3% of adults nationwide, the typical Kansas household earns only $54,935 a year, considerably less than the median household income nationwide of $57,617.