Special Report

America's Most and Least Educated States

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21. Montana
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 31.0%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $39,650 (the lowest)
> Median household income: $50,027 (11th lowest)
> 2016 unemployment: 4.1% (17th lowest)

In 2012, 29.4% of adults in Montana had a bachelor’s degree, slightly more than the 29.1% of American adults at the time. As of last year, after only a modest improvement, 31.0% of adults in the state had at least a bachelor’s degree, slightly less than the 31.3% share of adults nationwide. Similarly, 92.8% of adults in Montana have at least a high school diploma — effectively unchanged over the same period.

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22. Pennsylvania
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.8%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $51,199 (16th highest)
> Median household income: $56,907 (23rd highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 5.4% (9th highest)

The share of adults with a bachelor’s degree increased more in Pennsylvania in the last four years than in all but three other states. An estimated 30.8% of Pennsylvania adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to the state’s 2012 college attainment rate of 27.8%. College-educated adults are more likely to hold advanced, high-paying jobs, and they often earn higher incomes than adults who did not graduate from a four-year college. As college attainment rose in Pennsylvania, the median household income rose as well, from $53,539 in 2012 to $56,907 in 2016.

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23. Georgia
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.5%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $50,962 (18th highest)
> Median household income: $53,559 (21st lowest)
> 2016 unemployment: 5.4% (9th highest)

Some 30.5% of adults in Georgia have obtained a four-year college degree — roughly in line with the 31.3% share of American adults. Just as it did nationwide, the share of Peach State adult residents with college degree climbed by just over half a percentage point from 2015.

Meanwhile, the 86.4% share of adults in Georgia with at least a high school education remains effectively unchanged from 2015. Nationwide, 87.5% of adults have at least a high school diploma, up about half a percentage point from 2015.

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24. North Carolina
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.4%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $47,143 (21st lowest)
> Median household income: $50,584 (12th lowest)
> 2016 unemployment: 5.1% (16th highest)

An estimated 30.4% of adults have a bachelor’s degree in North Carolina, slightly less than the 31.3% national figure. Despite nearly average college attainment rate, most North Carolina residents are far less wealthy than the typical American. The typical North Carolina household earns $50,584 a year, much less than the $57,617 national median household income. One factor depressing incomes in North Carolina may be the weak job market. In 2016, 5.1% of North Carolina’s labor force was unemployed, compared to the 4.9% national figure.

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25. Maine
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.1%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $43,559 (8th lowest)
> Median household income: $53,079 (19th lowest)
> 2016 unemployment: 3.9% (13th lowest)

While the share of U.S. adults with a bachelor’s degree nationwide rose from 30.6% in 2015 to 31.3% in 2016, in Maine the college attainment rate remained at 30.1%.

A college education pays off less in Maine than it does in most states. The typical bachelor’s degree holder in Maine earns just $15,600 more a year than the typical high school graduate, compared to the $21,700 average difference nationwide. One factor contributing to the relatively low earnings of college graduates may be the lack of advanced industry in Maine. Just 1.5% of Maine workers are employed in information, and just 9.0% in professional and scientific services, among the smallest shares nationwide.