In 1947, 30 years after Mississippi became the last state in the country to pass compulsory education laws, less than one in three American adults had a high school diploma. Today, a high school education is a given for the vast majority of Americans, and barely one in 10 American adults lack a diploma.
Despite the progress, educational attainment is far from even across the country. Though a high school diploma is a prerequisite for most jobs — and for nearly all high-salary positions — there are some parts of the country where more than one-third of Americans have not completed high school.
While every state has some attendance laws, requirements differ, with some making attendance compulsory through the age of 19, while others allow students to drop out at 17 or, in one case, after they have completed just eighth grade.
People drop out of high school for many different reasons. Among the most of common reasons are the need to support their family financially, pregnancy, drug use, or simply frustration after repeatedly failing classes or getting held back. These factors often depend on regional socioeconomic conditions such as poverty and crime. This means that in many states there is at least one county where at least 30% of adults do not have a high school diploma.
These are the counties where the fewest people have graduated from high school.
To determine the county where the fewest people have graduated high school, 24/7 Wall St. considered data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. All data listed, including average incomes based on educational attainment, are from the ACS, and are for five year periods ending in 2016.