Special Report

The Most and Least Educated States

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24. North Carolina (tied)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.3% (2019); 31.9% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $50,977 (21st lowest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $38,534
> Unemployment: 3.9% (2019); 4.0% (2018)

The 32.3% bachelor’s degree attainment rate in North Carolina ranks in the middle of all states and slightly below the 33.1% share of adults nationwide with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Still, compared to other states in the South, North Carolina ranks among the best educated. Of all 15 other states in the South, Georgia, Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland are the only ones with a higher bachelor’s degree attainment rate higher than North Carolina.

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24. Pennsylvania (tied)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.3% (2019); 31.8% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $55,326 (16th highest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $42,229
> Unemployment: 4.4% (2019); 4.2% (2018)

Though Pennsylvania’s bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 32.3% ranks near the middle of states, it is still lower than the national 33.1% rate.

Adults with a college education tend to have better job security. Still, Pennsylvania has had an unemployment rate that consistently ranks among the highest in the country. The state’s 4.4% unemployment rate in 2019 was the seventh highest among states. As the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched on, Pennsylvania’s economic recovery has lagged behind the country’s overall recovery, and its 10.3% unemployment rate in August 2020 also was among the 10 highest nationwide.

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23. Georgia
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.5% (2019); 31.9% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $53,662 (19th highest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $40,312
> Unemployment: 3.4% (2019); 3.9% (2018)

In Georgia, 32.5% of adults 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree. Though this is a higher share than most states, it is still short of the U.S. bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 33.1%. Meanwhile, Georgia’s median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders ranks 19th highest, at $53,662. The state’s $40,312 median earning for all workers ranks 30th among all states.

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20. Maine (tied)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 33.2% (2019); 31.5% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $47,375 (8th lowest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $39,550
> Unemployment: 3.0% (2019); 3.2% (2018)

Northeastern states tend to have far higher than average educational attainment rates. For example, Maine has the second lowest bachelor’s degree attainment in the Northeast, behind every other state in the region except for Pennsylvania. Still, the 33.2% share of adults in Maine with a bachelor’s degree or higher is larger than in most states and slightly above the 33.1% national share.

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20. Nebraska (tied)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 33.2% (2019); 32.4% (2018)
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders:/strong> $50,779 (20th lowest)
> Median earnings for all workers: $41,488
> Unemployment: 3.0% (2019); 2.9% (2018)

Nearly one-third of Nebraska adults 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree, slightly ahead of the U.S. rate. Adults in Nebraska are also more likely than most American adults to have a high school diploma. Of all state residents aged 25 and up, 92.0% have completed high school, compared with 88.6% of all Americans in the same age group.

Though Nebraska’s median earnings for all workers is nearly in line with the nationwide median, its median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders, at $50,779, is more than $5,000 below the comparable U.S. median.