America’s Most and Least Educated States

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36. South Carolina
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 28.0%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $46,928 (14th lowest)
> Median household income: $50,570 (9th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 4.3% (tied — 23rd highest)

In South Carolina, 28.0% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, well below the national college attainment rate of 32.0%. College-educated workers in the state can expect to earn nearly $20,000 more per year than adults who did not continue their education past high school. The typical worker with a high school education earns just $27,178 a year, the fourth lowest median earnings of any state. A relatively large share of South Carolinians work in manufacturing — a career that typically does not require a high level of specialization and often pays low wages.

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37. Ohio
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 28.0%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $51,684 (19th highest)
> Median household income: $54,021 (16th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 5.0% (tied — 6th highest)

Just 28.0% of adults in Ohio have a bachelor’s degree, far less than 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. In Ohio, the typical household earns $54,021 a year, less than the national median household income of $60,336.

One factor contributing to Ohio’s low college attainment rate may be the state’s unhealthy job market, which can deter college graduates from moving to the state. Some 5.0% of the state’s workforce is unemployed, tied with Illinois and Nevada as the sixth highest unemployment rate nationwide.

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38. Wyoming
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 27.6%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $47,546 (16th lowest)
> Median household income: $60,434 (19th highest)
> 2017 unemployment: 4.2% (tied — 24th lowest)

The share of adults who have at least a four-year college degree in Wyoming remained effectively unchanged over the past year. Today, 27.6% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, well below the comparable national share of 32.0%. Wyoming, however, is home to a high share of adults with a high school education. Nearly 93% of adults have a high school diploma, the fourth largest share among all states and above the national high school attainment rate of 88.0%.

Many of the jobs in Wyoming, a state rich in natural resources, may not require a college degree. For example, 10.1% of Wyoming’s workforce works within the agriculture, forestry, and mining industries — the largest share nationwide. Wyoming also has some of the largest shares of workers employed in the transportation and warehousing and construction sectors.

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39. Tennessee
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 27.3%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $46,779 (12th lowest)
> Median household income: $51,340 (10th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 3.7% (tied — 16th lowest)

While the share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree in Tennessee rose from 26.1% in 2016 to 27.3% in 2017 — one of the largest increases of any state — the state’s college attainment rate remains far below the 32.0% national rate. College graduates report higher incomes than those with less education on average, likely contributing to the increase in incomes in the state. The median household income in the state rose from $49,524 in 2016 to $51,340 in 2017 — one of the largest increases nationwide. Still, Tennessee remains one of the less wealthy states, with a median income far below the $60,336 national median.

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40. New Mexico
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 27.1%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $42,379 (5th lowest)
> Median household income: $46,744 (5th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment: 6.2% (2nd highest)

New Mexico is one of several states without a statistically significant increase in college attainment from 2016 to 2017. The share of adults with a bachelor’s degree actually fell slightly from 27.2% to 27.1%. The decline in college attainment coincided with a slight, albeit statistically insignificant, drop in income. The median household income in New Mexico fell from $47,386 in 2016, then the sixth lowest of any state, to $46,744 in 2017, the fifth lowest.

One factor deterring college graduates from moving to New Mexico may be the state’s unhealthy job market. In 2017, 6.2% of New Mexico’s workforce was unemployed, the second highest unemployment rate nationwide.