Special Report

The Most and Least Educated States

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30. Alaska (tied)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.2% (2019); 30.2% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $53,033 (20th highest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $47,809
> Unemployment: 6.1% (2019); 6.5% (2018)

Though Alaska has the third highest share of residents 25 and older with a high school diploma, at 93.6%, its bachelor’s degree attainment rate is lower than that of most states, at 30.2%. The rate remained unchanged from 2018 to 2019, even as the overall U.S. attainment rate increased by half a percentage point.

Alaska’s median earnings for all workers is one of the highest in the country at $47,809 — $6,000 more than the comparable U.S. median. Yet median earnings for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the state is $53,033, more than $3,000 lower than the median earnings for working Americans with that level of educational attainment.

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29. North Dakota
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.4% (2019); 29.7% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $51,854 (25th highest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $43,865
> Unemployment: 2.4% (2019); 2.6% (2018)

The kinds of well-paying jobs that require higher educational attainment do not appear to be as common in North Dakota as they are nationwide, while well-paying jobs for workers with lower education levels appear more common. The typical worker with a bachelor’s degree in the state earns $51,854 annually, only $8,000 more than the median annual earnings for state workers of all education levels. Similarly, the typical worker with a graduate or professional degree earns just $61,288, or about $17,000 more than median earnings for all workers. Nationwide, the typical worker with a bachelor’s degree earns $56,344, and the typical worker with an advanced degree earns $75,495, or about $15,000 and $34,000 more than the median earnings for all workers, respectively.

This may partially explain North Dakota’s lower than average 30.4% bachelor’s degree attainment rate and 8.9% advanced degree attainment rate.

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28. Florida
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.7% (2019); 30.4% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $47,810 (10th lowest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $36,021
> Unemployment: 3.1% (2019); 3.6% (2018)

In Florida, 30.7% of adults 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree — a smaller share than in most states and well below the 33.1% national share. However, adults in Florida are more about as likely to have a high school diploma as the typical American adult. An estimated 88.4% of the state’s 25 and older residents have completed high school, compared to 88.6% of Americans nationwide in the same age range.

Florida has the fifth lowest median earnings for all workers at just over $36,000 and the 10th lowest median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders at $47,810.

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27. Texas
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.8% (2019); 30.3% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $56,853 (14th highest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $40,895
> Unemployment: 3.5% (2019); 3.8% (2018)

Just 30.8% of adults in Texas have a bachelor’s degree or higher, well below the 33.1% share of adults nationwide. The education gap is even more pronounced at the high school level. Just 84.6% of Texans 25 and older have completed high school, compared to 88.6% of Americans nationwide in the same age group.

Incomes tend to rise with educational attainment, and despite being home to smaller than average shares of college and high school-educated adults, the state’s median household income of $64,034 is only slightly lower than the national median of $65,712.

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26. Wisconsin
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 31.3% (2019); 30.0% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $52,425 (22nd highest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $42,222
> Unemployment: 3.3% (2019); 3.0% (2018)

Wisconsin’s bachelor’s degree attainment increased from 30% in 2018 to 31.3% in 2019. Though this is one of the largest increases of any state, Wisconsin’s educational attainment is still short of the U.S. degree attainment rate of 33.1%. During the same time, the state’s high school diploma attainment rate increased by 0.7 percentage points to 92.8% — the 10th highest share of any state.