America’s Most and Least Educated States

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46. Kentucky
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 24.0%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $46,881 (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $48,375 (7th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 4.9% (tied — 9th highest)

Earning a college education is one of the most effective ways for individuals to increase their earning potential. Only 24.0% of adults in Kentucky have at least a four-year college degree, the fifth lowest share nationwide. The typical household in Kentucky earns just $43,375 a year, the seventh lowest income among all states. One factor that may deter college graduates from moving to Kentucky may be the state’s unhealthy job market. Some 4.9% of the workforce are unemployed, the ninth highest unemployment rate in the country and well above the national rate of 4.4%.

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47. Louisiana
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.8%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $48,795 (19th lowest)
> Median household income: $46,145 (4th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 5.1% (tied — 4th highest)

Just 23.8% of adults hold a bachelor’s degree in Louisiana, the fourth lowest share in the country. The low college attainment rate may help explain why so many in the state struggle financially. Louisiana’s poverty rate of 19.7% is the second highest of U.S. states. Some 6.6% of Louisiana families live on $10,000 or less annually. No state has a greater share of families living with such a low income. Louisiana’s unemployment rate of 5.1% is one of the highest in the country.

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48. Arkansas
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.4%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $46,483 (11th lowest)
> Median household income: $45,869 (3rd lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 3.7% (tied — 16th lowest)

Arkansas has the third lowest college attainment rate of all states. Just 23.4% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, well below the comparable national share of 32.0%. Adults with college degrees are more likely to have higher paying jobs than those with only a high school education, and the low college attainment rate in Arkansas has likely contributed to the state’s low incomes. The median household income of just $45,869 a year in the state is well below the national median income of $60,336 a year, and the third lowest nationwide.

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49. Mississippi
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 21.9%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $41,706 (3rd lowest)
> Median household income: $43,529 (2nd lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 5.1% (tied — 4th highest)

The share of adults in Mississippi who have a bachelor’s degree remained effectively unchanged from 2016 to 2017. With just 21.9% of the adult population in the state holding a four-year college degree — 10.1 percentage points below the national college attainment rate of 32.0% — Mississippi is the second least educated state in the nation. Lower educational attainment typically leads to lower-paying jobs and a greater likelihood of facing financial hardship. In Mississippi, the typical household earns $43,529 a year, the second lowest median income nationwide. Mississippi also has the largest share of residents living in poverty at 19.8%, well above the national poverty rate of 13.4%.

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50. West Virginia
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 20.2%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $43,516 (6th lowest)
> Median household income: $43,469 (the lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 5.2% (3rd highest)

West Virginia is the least educated state in the nation, with only about one in five adults holding a bachelor’s degree. A college degree tends to increase workers’ earning potential and helps them avoid serious financial hardship. West Virginia has the lowest median household income in the nation at just $43,469 a year, far below the national median annual income of $60,336. Across the state, 16.8% of adults rely on government assistance in the form of food stamps, the second highest recipiency rate of all states.