Special Report

Every State’s Least Educated Metro Area

College enrollment has declined steadily in the United States in recent years. With rising tuition costs and surging student debt, enrollment rates have fallen by 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 33.1% of American adults 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Educational attainment rates vary considerably across the country, however, and in nearly every state, there is at least one metro area where the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree is well below the national average. 

Using education data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. identified the least educated metropolitan area in every state. It is important to note that Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont have only one metro area, each of which ranks as the least educated metro in the state by default only. 

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 most metro areas on this list, the average unemployment rate is higher than the jobless rate across the state as a whole. 

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 areas with low educational attainment, incomes also tend to be lower than average. In the vast majority of metro areas on this list, the typical household earns less in a year than the statewide median household income.

Click here to see every state’s least educated metro area.
Click here to read our detailed methodology.