America’s Most and Least Educated States

Print Email

Source: Thinkstock

31. Missouri
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.1%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $48,238 (17th lowest)
> Median household income: $53,578 (15th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 3.8% (tied — 19th lowest)

Missouri adults are less likely to have graduated college than American adults on the whole. Only 29.1% of adults in Missouri have a bachelor’s degree, below the national college attainment rate of 32.0%. Individuals with a college diploma are more likely to have high-paying, advanced jobs, and are more wealthy overall. The typical household in Missouri earns $53,578 a year, less than the national median household income of $60,336.

Source: Thinkstock

32. Michigan
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.1%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $51,527 (20th highest)
> Median household income: $54,909 (18th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 4.6% (tied — 17th highest)

In line with the national trend, the share of adults in Michigan with a bachelor’s degree improved slightly in 2017. Still, the 29.1% of adults in the state with a college education remains below the comparable rate in most states.

While adults in Michigan are less likely to have a college education than American adults on the whole, they are more likely to have a high school education. Some 90.9% of adults in the state have high school education, higher than the 88.0% of American adults who have similar education.

Source: Ron_Thomas / Getty Images

33. Iowa
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 28.9%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $50,840 (23rd highest)
> Median household income: $58,570 (25th highest)
> 2017 unemployment: 3.1% (7th lowest)

Though Iowa adults are not among the most likely to have a four-year college degree, they are among the most likely to have a high school education. Iowa’s high school attainment rate of 92.1% is the 10th highest off all states.

Iowa has a high concentration of workers in jobs that typically do not require a college degree. Some 3.8% of workers are employed in the agriculture sector, 14.6% in manufacturing, and 2.9% in wholesale trade — the ninth, sixth, and fourth largest shares of any state.

Source: Rocky Grimes / Shutterstock.com

34. Alaska
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 28.8%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $56,914 (10th highest)
> Median household income: $73,181 (7th highest)
> 2017 unemployment: 7.2% (the highest)

Unlike in a majority of states, the share of adults in Alaska with a bachelor’s degree declined last year — from 29.6% in 2016 to 28.8% in 2017. Educational attainment trends typically parallel income trends, and in Alaska, as educational attainment dropped so did the state’s median household income. The typical household in Alaska earned $73,181 in 2017, a considerable drop of $4,722 from the median household income of $77,903 in 2016. The unemployment rate in the state also rose in 2017 — to 7.2% from 6.9% the year before. This is inconsistent with the national trend of declining employment. Nationwide, the jobless rate fell from 4.9% in 2016 to 4.4% in 2017. Alaska currently has the highest share of unemployed workers in the nation.

Source: Thinkstock

35. South Dakota
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 28.1%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $44,805 (8th lowest)
> Median household income: $56,521 (22nd lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 3.3% (tied — 10th lowest)

Some 28.1% of adults in South Dakota have a bachelor’s degree, far below the national college attainment rate of 32.0%. Areas with low educational attainment are less likely to attract advanced, high-paying industries, and they are often less wealthy overall. In South Dakota, just 6.3% of workers are employed in the traditionally high-paying field of professional, scientific, management, or administrative services, the smallest share of any state. The typical household in the state earns $56,251 a year, less than the national median household income of $60,336.