Educational attainment in America affects a number of aspects of life. Among them are lifelong income, poverty, where people live, and sometimes where their children go to school. Low income may mean people don’t even have enough for food. People without a high school education are generally worse off in terms of these outcomes. And while people with a high school diploma also are likely to suffer from these problems, people who graduate from college much less so.
Nationwide, an estimated 33% 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. The least educated metro area in America is Danville, Illinois. Here are the details:
Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 12.1%
Median earnings, all workers: $34,119 — 58th lowest of 384 metros
Median earnings, bachelor’s degree holders: $54,870 — 284th lowest of 384 metros
Estimated unemployment rate, all workers: 7.9% — 13th highest of 384 metros
Estimated unemployment rate, adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 1.6% — tied for 234th highest of 384 metros
Using education data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 50 least educated metro area in the United States.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall U.S. jobless rate was 8.1% in 2020, with the unemployment rate at 5.5% among labor force participants with a four-year college education and at 9.0% among those with no more than a high school diploma. (This is the least educated town in every state.)
Similarly, before the pandemic, in most of the metro areas on this list — with the lowest bachelor’s degree attainment rate nationwide — the 2019 overall unemployment rate among 25- to 64-year-olds was higher than the national rate of 3.7% that year.
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. In places with low educational attainment, incomes similarly tend to be lower than average. In all but two metro areas on our list, the typical household earns less in a year than the national median household income of $65,712. (This is the city where most people live below the poverty line in every state.)
To determine America’s least educated metros, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed one-year estimates of the percentage of adults 25 years and over with at least a bachelor’s degree in metropolitan areas from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.
We used the 384 metropolitan statistical areas as delineated by the United States Office of Management and Budget and used by the Census Bureau as our definition of metros.
All 384 metros were ranked by their bachelor’s degree or higher attainment rate. Since many metros cross state lines, the metro was assigned to the state of its first-listed principal city.
Additional information on the median earnings for adults 25 and over with earnings that hold a bachelor’s degree, median earnings for adults 25 and over with earnings for all levels of educational attainment, unemployment rates for the 25-64 year old population that have at least a bachelor’s degree, and unemployment rates for the 25-64 year old population for all educational attainment levels are also one-year estimates from the 2019 ACS.