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. While in some parts of the country high school graduation rates are relatively low, in others, well over 95% of adults have a high school diploma.
Every state has some attendance laws, but requirements differ by state, with some allowing students to drop out at 17 or even after they have completed eighth grade. Others, on the other hand, make education compulsory through the age of 19. Laws also differ on how long students are allowed to attend. Alabama’s state law only provides free education through the age of 17, while in some states, students may attend through the age of 22.
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 over 90% of adults have a diploma. In some, over 95% do.
To determine the county where the most 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. In the case of Virginia, the geography listed is a city, which the Census Bureau treats as a county equivalent.