Special Report

America's Most and Least Educated States

Source: Thinkstock

16. Oregon
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.7%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $46,942 (20th lowest)
> Median household income: $57,532 (21st highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 4.9% (20th highest)

Breaking from the national trend, the share of adults with a college education remained effectively unchanged in Oregon between 2015 and 2016. Despite a nationwide increase in the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree, Oregon’s 32.7% share of adults with a four-year diploma remains higher than the comparable U.S. share of 31.3%.

Incomes often increase with education attainment, and despite Oregon’s more educated population, the typical household in the state earns $57,532 a year, roughly in line the with the $57,617 median income nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

17. Utah
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.6%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $47,164 (22nd lowest)
> Median household income: $65,977 (11th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 3.4% (8th lowest)

States with higher than typical educational attainment rates often have strong economies — and Utah is no exception. Some 32.6% of adults 25 and older in the state have a bachelor’s degree, a larger share than in most states and above the comparable 31.3% U.S. educational attainment rate. With a well-educated labor force, joblessness is relatively uncommon in Utah. Only 3.4% of the state’s labor force is out of a job, one of the lower unemployment rates among states and far better than the 4.9% annual unemployment nationwide.

18. Hawaii
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 31.9%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $49,440 (23rd highest)
> Median household income: $74,511 (5th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 3.0% (3rd lowest)

In Hawaii, 31.9% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, roughly in line with the 31.3% share of American adults. Despite comparable educational attainment only 3.0% of Hawaii’s workers were out of a job in 2016, the third lowest annual jobless rate among states and well below the 4.9% annual U.S. unemployment rate.

Incomes are also relatively high in Hawaii. The typical household in the state earns $74,511 a year, nearly $17,000 more than the typical American household.

Source: Thinkstock

19. Nebraska
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 31.4%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $46,260 (16th lowest)
> Median household income: $56,927 (22nd highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 3.2% (5th lowest)

The share of adults with a bachelor’s degree in Nebraska climbed from 30.2% in 2015 to 31.4% in 2016 — a stronger improvement than in most states. States with a larger share of college educated residents typically have lower unemployment. Despite the uptick in the college attainment rate, unemployment climbed slightly from 3.0% to 3.2% in Nebraska between 2015 and 2016.

Source: Thinkstock

20. Delaware
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 31.0%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $54,225 (11th highest)
> Median household income: $61,757 (15th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 4.4% (21st lowest)

Nationwide, the share of adults with bachelor’s degree climbed from 29% in 2012 to 31.3% in 2016. Though the degree of the uptick varied from state to state, the improvement was nearly universal — with only a few exceptions like Delaware. Delaware’s 31.0% bachelor’s degree attainment rate is effectively unchanged since 2012. Similarly, the 89.3% share of state adults with a high school diploma has not changed meaningfully since 2012, while nationwide, the high school attainment rate improved by 1.1 percentage points over the same period.