2018’s Most & Least Educated States in America
For a growing number of Americans, a good education is the ticket to a better future. College opens doors to more career opportunities, higher earnings and new social connections, among other benefits. But how much schooling one receives also matters to some extent. Generally, the higher the level of education one completes, the higher their income potential and the lower their chances of unemployment become.
In this study, WalletHub examined the key factors of a well-educated population: educational attainment, school quality, and achievement gaps between genders and races. We compared all 50 states across 15 total metrics grouped into two categories. The data set ranges from share of adults aged 25 and older with at least a high school diploma to average university quality to gender gap in educational attainment.
Read on for our findings, commentary from a panel of experts and a full description of our methodology. A separate WalletHub analysis identifies the Most & Least Educated Cities.
Most Educated States
‘Educational Attainment’ Rank
‘Quality of Education’ Rank
For insight into other topics in higher education, we turned to a panel of experts in various fields. Click on the panelists’ profiles below to read their bios and thoughts on the following key questions:
- What's the impact of K-12 school quality on rates of high school completion and later college attendance and completion?
- What are the most effective ways to combat “brain drain” across state borders?
- Are highly educated states better able to withstand economic shocks?
- To what extent should states consider education policy as part of a broader economic development strategy?
- Will the reductions in public funding for higher education make states less competitive in the long run?
In order to determine the most and least educated states in America, WalletHub compared the 50 states across two key dimensions, Educational Attainment and Quality of Education.
We examined those dimensions using 15 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the “most educated.” In certain metrics where women showed an advantage over men and blacks over whites, we gave equal credit to the states with no gender/racial inequality. These metrics were marked accordingly with an asterisk (*).
We then determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its total score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Educational Attainment - Total Points: 60
- Share of Adults Aged 25 & Older with at Least a High School Diploma: Full Weight (~15.00 Points)
- Share of Adults Aged 25 & Older with at Least Some College Experience or an Associate's Degree: Full Weight (~15.00 Points)
- Share of Adults Aged 25 & Older with at Least a Bachelor's Degree: Full Weight (~15.00 Points)
- Share of Adults Aged 25 & Older with at Least a Graduate or Professional Degree: Full Weight (~15.00 Points)
Quality of Education & Attainment Gap - Total Points: 40
- Quality of School System: Double Weight (~5.71 Points)
Note: This metric is based on U.S. News & World Report ’s school systems rating.
- Average Quality of Universities: Double Weight (~5.71 Points)
- Enrolled Students in Top Universities per Capita: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “"2018 College & University Rankings"” ranking of America’s top 973 universities.
- Public High School Graduation Rate: Double Weight (~5.71 Points)
Note: This metric measures the graduation rate for students who attended high school for four years.
- Public College Graduation Rate: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This metric measures the graduation rate for students who attended college for four years.
- Projected High School Graduation Rate Increase between 2016-2017 and 2031-2032: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
- Projected College Graduation Rates for 2020: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
- NAEP Math & Reading Test Scores: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
- Share of 2016 High School Class Scoring “3” or Higher on Advanced Placement Exams: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This metric shows the degree to which students are participating in AP Exams and are achieving scores that qualify them for college credit at most U.S. public colleges and universities.
- Racial Gap in Educational Attainment*: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This metric specifically measures the difference between the percentage of black bachelor’s degree holders and the percentage of their white counterparts.
- Gender Gap in Educational Attainment*: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This metric specifically measures the difference between the percentage of female bachelor’s degree holders and the percentage of their male counterparts.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, National Center for Education Statistics, The Chronicle of Higher Education, U.S. News & World Report, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, U.S. Department of Education, The College Board and WalletHub research.
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