America’s Most and Least Educated States

Print Email

Source: knowlesgallery / iStock

41. Idaho
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.8%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $42,188 (4th lowest)
> Median household income: $52,225 (11th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 3.2% (tied — 8th lowest)

Just 26.8% of adults in Idaho have a bachelor’s degree, far less than the 32.0% national college attainment rate. The lack of high-paying, advanced industry in Idaho may be one factor contributing to the small share of college graduates in the state. Just 4.9% of workers in the state are employed in finance and insurance, 9.4% in professional, scientific, and management services, and 22.2% in educational and health care services, each among the smallest such shares of any state. A bachelor’s degree may also have less value in Idaho compared to other states, as workers with a college degree earn just $13,546 more a year on average than high school graduates — the third smallest earnings advantage of any state.

Source: Patawee / Shutterstock.com

42. Indiana
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.8%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $50,294 (25th highest)
> Median household income: $54,181 (17th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 3.5% (tied — 13th lowest)

Nationwide 32.0% of adults have a bachelor’s degree. In Indiana, only 26.8% do. While the share of Indiana adults who have at least a four-year college degree may still be below the national average, it has improved considerably since 2013, when just 23.8% of adults had a bachelor’s degree. The 3 percentage-point increase is the ninth largest of all states.

Source: Thinkstock

43. Oklahoma
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 25.5%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $46,203 (10th lowest)
> Median household income: $50,051 (8th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 4.3% (tied — 23rd highest)

Just 25.5% of adults in Oklahoma have a bachelor’s degree, far less than the 32.0% national share. The earnings potential for college graduates is far higher than for individuals with lower levels of education, and nationwide, workers with a college degree earn approximately $22,000 more per year than workers with just a high school diploma. The low college attainment rate in Oklahoma may partially contribute to the state’s low income level. The typical household in the state earns $50,051 a year, far less than the $60,336 the typical U.S. household earns and the eighth lowest median household income of any state.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

44. Alabama
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 25.5%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $49,520 (22nd lowest)
> Median household income: $48,123 (6th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 4.4% (22nd highest)

While educational attainment is improving in Alabama, it is still one of the least educated states in the nation. From 2016 to 2017, the share of adults with a high school diploma increased from 85.1% to 86.5%, the largest percentage-point jump in the country, yet still far below the national high school attainment rate of 88.0%. The increase in high school attainment coincided with an increase in both the share of adults with a college education and the state median household income. The share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree rose from 24.7% in 2016 to 25.5% in 2017, and the median household income rose from $47,157 to $48,123. Still, the college attainment rate and median household income in Alabama are far below the national figures of 32.0% and $60,336.

Source: Thinkstock

45. Nevada
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 24.9%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $48,974 (20th lowest)
> Median household income: $58,003 (25th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 5.0% (tied — 6th highest)

Just 24.9% of adults in Nevada have a bachelor’s degree, far less than the 32.0% national college attainment rate and the sixth smallest share of any state. Just 86.8% of adults in the state have a high school diploma, the 10th smallest share. One factor deterring college graduates from moving to Nevada may be the state’s unhealthy job market. In 2017, 5.0% of the state’s workforce was unemployed, the sixth highest unemployment rate of any state. Additionally, the value of a college diploma in Nevada may be relatively low compared to other states. The typical college graduate earns $17,766 a year more than high school graduates, one of the smaller earnings advantages of any state.