Special Report

The Most and Least Educated States

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35. South Carolina
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.6% (2019); 28.3% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $50,734 (19th lowest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $37,727
> Unemployment: 2.8% (2019); 3.5% (2018)

South Carolina is one of just eight states in which the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree grew by more than 1 percentage point in 2019, from 28.3% in 2018 to 29.6%. Yet the state’s bachelor’s degree attainment rate is still well below the U.S. rate of 33.1%.

Adults with a college education tend to have better job security. Still, despite a relatively low educational attainment rate, South Carolina workers were less likely to be unemployed in 2019 than those in all but a handful of other states. The state’s 2.8% unemployment rate was lower than all but six other states, and well below the 3.7% U.S. rate.

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34. South Dakota
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.7% (2019); 29.2% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $47,630 (9th lowest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $38,646
> Unemployment: 3.3% (2019); 3.1% (2018)

In South Dakota, 29.7% of adults 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree. Though degree holders do tend to earn more than those with lower levels of education in this state, the difference is relatively small. The state’s median earnings for those with no more than a high school diploma is $31,306, just slightly below the U.S. median earnings for high school graduates of $31,956. Yet the state’s median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders of $47,630 is more than $8,000 lower than the $56,344 U.S. median for degree holders.

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33. Michigan
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.0% (2019); 29.6% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $54,634 (17th highest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $40,450
> Unemployment: 4.1% (2019); 4.1% (2018)

The share of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher in Michigan climbed slightly from 29.6% in 2018 to 30.0% in 2019.

Over the same period, the median household income in Michigan went from $57,518 to $59,584. While incomes were up overall in the state, the share of wealthy households actually declined. Only 6.2% of Michigan households earned more than $200,000 in 2019, down half a percentage point from 6.7% in 2018.

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30. Missouri (tied)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.2% (2019); 29.5% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $51,217 (22nd lowest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $40,078
> Unemployment: 3.3% (2019); 3.2% (2018)

Missouri is one of four states in which the bachelor’s degree attainment rate increased to 30% or higher in 2019. Though Missouri’s bachelor’s degree attainment rate is lower than the national rate of 33.1%, adults in the state are more likely to have finished high school than the typical American adult. In 2019, 90.7% of Missourians 25 and older had a high school diploma, compared to 88.6% of Americans in that same age group.

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30. Arizona (tied)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.2% (2019); 29.7% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $52,077 (24th highest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $39,956
> Unemployment: 4.7% (2019); 4.7% (2018)

In Arizona, 30.2% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher — a smaller share than in most states and well below the 33.1% national bachelor’s degree attainment rate. Arizona residents are also slightly less likely to have completed high school than Americans nationwide. Just 87.6% of the state’s adult residents have a high school diploma or equivalent, compared to 88.6% of adults nationwide.