America’s Most and Least Educated States

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The share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree hit an all time high in 2018, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Recently released data shows that 32.6% of American adults age 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 32.0% in 2017. 

Americans with more educational attainment — especially those with a bachelor’s degree or higher — are more likely to have high-paying jobs and less likely to be unemployed. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical American adult with a four-year college education and a full-time job earns nearly $1,200 a week, about $470 more than someone with only a high school education. Additionally, those with just a high school education are about twice as likely to be unemployed as those with a bachelor’s degree.

There was a statistically significant increase in the bachelor’s degree attainment rate in 20 states in 2018. Of course, educational attainment rates are not even across the country, and some states have much higher rates of educational attainment than others. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2018 bachelor’s degree attainment rates from the ACS to identify America’s most and least educated states. 

While a state may have reported an increase in educational attainment since 2017, not all increases were statistically significant. States in which the uptick was not significant were not counted as having an increase in bachelor’s degree attainment. 

Several of the 20 states that reported a meaningful improvement in the bachelor’s degree attainment rate also reported a statistically significant increase in median household income, and all but one — West Virginia — reported an improvement in average annual unemployment between 2017 and 2018. 

In general, states with higher educational attainment tend to have higher incomes and lower unemployment — and in states where a smaller share of adults have a college education, incomes tend to be low and the job markets are often not as strong. Here is a look at the states where it is hardest to find full-time work

It is important to note that a college education can be expensive, and a bachelor’s degree in itself is no guarantee of a well-paying job. For the college-bound who are looking for a high-paying career, some fields of study are best avoided. These are the lowest paying college majors in America.

Click here to see America’s most and least educated states
Click here to read our methodology