Special Report

The Least Educated Metro Areas in the Country

College enrollment has declined steadily in the United States in recent years. With rising tuition costs and surging student debt, enrollment has 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 33.1% of American adults 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. But across the United States, there are major metropolitan areas where fewer than 20% of  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 metro areas in the United States. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the overall U.S. jobless rate was 8.1% in 2020 the unemployment rate was 5.5% among adults with a four-year college education , and 9.0% among those with no more than a high school diploma. In most of the metro areas on this list, the 2019 overall unemployment rate among 25 to 64 year olds was higher than the national rate of 3.7% that year. 

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 similarly tend to be lower than average. In all but two metro areas on this list, the typical household earns less in a year than the national median household income of $65,712.

Click here to see the least educated metros in the nation.
Click here to read our detailed methodology.