Special Report

The Least Educated Counties in the United States

College enrollment has declined steadily in the United States in recent years. With rising tuition costs and surging student debt, enrollment rates have fallen at an average of nearly 2% a year since 2010. While four years of higher education may not be for everyone, Americans without a bachelor’s degree tend to be far more limited in their career opportunities, job security, and earning potential. 

Nationwide, an estimated 32.1% of American adults 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. But across the United States, there are counties and county equivalents where fewer than one in every 10 adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher. 

Using education data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. identified the least educated counties in the United States. All but a handful of counties and county equivalents on this list are located in the South.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate among adults with a four-year college education was 5.5% 2020. Meanwhile, the jobless rate among those with no more than a high school diploma was 9.0%. In the vast majority of the counties and county equivalents on this list, the five-year average unemployment rate is higher than the comparable national rate of 4.4%. 

In addition to being better protected from unemployment, Americans with a bachelor’s degree also tend to have higher salaries. The average weekly wage for a college-educated worker in the United States is about 67% higher than it is for those with no more than a high school diploma. And in places with low educational attainment, incomes also tend to be lower than average. In all but one county on this list, the typical household earns less in a year than the national median household income of $62,843.

Click here to see the least educated counties in the United States.
Click here to see our detailed methodology.