America’s Most and Least Educated States

Print Email

Source: Thinkstock

16. California
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 33.6%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $60,940 (5th highest)
> Median household income: $71,805 (8th highest)
> 2017 unemployment: 4.8% (tied — 12th highest)

Just 83.3% of adults in California have a high school diploma, far less than the 88.0% of adults nationwide and the smallest share of any state. Areas with low high school attainment rates are less likely to attract advanced companies, and they often have lower incomes and lower college attainment rates overall. In California, however, 33.6% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, more than the national college attainment rate of 32.0%. Similarly, the typical household in the state earns $71,805 a year, far more than the $60,336 the typical household earns nationwide and the eight highest median household income of any state.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

17. Rhode Island
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 33.5%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $55,749 (14th highest)
> Median household income: $63,870 (15th highest)
> 2017 unemployment: 4.5% (21st highest)

The share of adults in Rhode Island who have at least a bachelor’s degree remained effectively unchanged over the past year. As of 2017, 33.5% of adults had at least a four-year college degree, more than the 32.0% national college attainment rate.

Trends in educational attainment tend to parallel those in income. In Rhode Island, however, incomes in the state grew substantially as the college attainment rate remained statistically stagnant. The median household income in Rhode Island rose $2,411 from $61,459 in 2016 to $63,870 in 2017, the fifth largest increase nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

18. Hawaii
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.9%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $50,803 (24th highest)
> Median household income: $77,765 (3rd highest)
> 2017 unemployment: 2.4% (the lowest)

Over the past five years, the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree in Hawaii rose from 31.2% in 2013 to 32.9% in 2017. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree are more likely to hold advanced, high-paying jobs than those with less educational attainment, and the increase in the share of college graduates in Hawaii may have partially contributed to income growth in the state. The median annual household income in Hawaii rose from $71,566 in 2013 to $77,765 in 2017, now the third highest income of any state.

While incomes in Hawaii are among the highest of any state, the state is one of the most expensive places to live. Goods and services in Hawaii cost 18.4% more than they do nationwide, and the typical home is worth $617,400 — each the highest such figure of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

19. Montana
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.3%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $40,244 (the lowest)
> Median household income: $53,386 (14th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 4.0% (21st lowest)

While higher educational attainment tends to lead to higher incomes in general, Montana is a notable exception. Even though 32.3% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, above the national share of 32.0%, adults in the state report incomes lower than the national median. The typical household in Montana earns $53,386 a year, far less than the $60,336 national median household income.

One factor contributing to the discrepancy between college attainment and income in Montana may be the relatively low value of a college degree in the state. The typical worker with a bachelor’s degree in Montana earns just $40,244 a year, the least of any state and just $11,866 more than the median annual earnings for adults with a high school education — the second smallest earnings advantage nationwide.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

20. Maine
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.1%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $44,118 (7th lowest)
> Median household income: $56,277 (20th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 3.3% (tied — 10th lowest)

From 2016 to 2017, the share of adults with a high school education in Maine remained unchanged at 92.3%. While high school attainment is strongly correlated with college attainment, the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree in Maine rose from 30.1% to 32.1% over the same period — the largest increase of any state. Maine’s college attainment rate surpassed the national figure, which rose from 31.3% in 2016 to 32.0% in 2017. Individuals with a college degree are more likely to hold high-paying jobs than those with less educational attainment, and over the same period, the median household income in Maine rose from $54,212 to $56,277 — the seventh largest increase of any state.