America’s Most and Least Educated States

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1. Massachusetts
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 43.4%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $62,167 (2nd highest)
> Median household income: $77,385 (4th highest)
> 2017 unemployment: 3.7% (tied — 16th lowest)

In Massachusetts, 43.4% of adults have at least a four-year college degree, the highest share of any state. The share of adults with a bachelor’s degree has increased considerably faster in the state than the nation as a whole. The share increased 0.7 percentage points from a 42.7% share in 2016. Adults with college degrees are more likely to have higher-paying jobs than those with only a high school education. In Massachusetts, the median annual household income is $77,385, the fourth largest among states nationwide.

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2. Colorado
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 41.2%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $52,074 (16th highest)
> Median household income: $69,117 (11th highest)
> 2017 unemployment: 2.8% (4th lowest)

Many high-paying jobs are often only accessible to workers with a college degree. In Colorado, 41.2% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, up from 39.9% in 2016. That 1.3 percentage point increase was one of the largest among states. Nationwide, the college degree attainment rate is 32.0%. Among state workers, 13.9% are employed in the professional, scientific, and management sector, the third largest such share of any state. In states with a smaller share of adults who attended college, it is likely a lower share of the workforce would be employed in the industry, which tends to require college graduates.

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3. Maryland
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 39.7%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $61,640 (3rd highest)
> Median household income: $80,776 (the highest)
> 2017 unemployment: 4.1% (tied — 22nd lowest)

States with above average educational attainment rates tend to have more affluent populations, and Maryland is no exception. Nearly 40% of adults in the New England state have at least a bachelor’s degree, the third highest share nationwide. In part due to the state’s highly educated workforce, Maryland’s median household income of $80,776 a year is higher than any other state in the country. It also exceeds the national annual median household income of $60,336 by over $20,000.

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4. New Jersey
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 39.7%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $63,545 (the highest)
> Median household income: $80,088 (2nd highest)
> 2017 unemployment: 4.6% (tied — 17th highest)

About 39.7% of adults in New Jersey have at least a bachelor’s degree, tied with Maryland for the third highest share nationwide. In general, higher education results in higher annual incomes, and in New Jersey, a four-year college degree is more valuable than in most other states. The typical worker with a college education in the state earns $63,545 a year, the highest earnings of any state and well above the annual national median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders of $52,484 a year.

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5. Virginia
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 38.7%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $58,191 (8th highest)
> Median household income: $71,535 (9th highest)
> 2017 unemployment: 3.8% (tied — 19th lowest)

A concentration of employment in sectors with a high share of white collar jobs is often indicative of higher educational attainment across a population. In Virginia, 15.7% of workers are employed in the professional, scientific, and management sector — the largest share of any U.S. state. Employment in the sector is made possible in part by the relatively large share of adults in Virginia with a bachelor’s degree.