Space & Innovation

These Are the Most and Least Educated States in the US

An analysis of of several factors including access to schools, quality of education and achievement gaps determined the most and least educated states in the country.

Education is a powerful tool. It can provide more career options, increased earning potential and more security within the job market. It's the key to an ideal future for many Americans, but the attainment and quality of education varies significantly across the country.

WalletHub recently conducted an analysis of several factors that determine a well-educated population for every US state. They looked at access to schools, the quality of the education in those schools and achievement gaps between different demographics to determine the most and least educated states in the country.

Researchers looked at 11 total metrics ranging from "percentage of adults aged 25 and older with at least a high school diploma" to "average university quality" to "gender gap in educational attainment."

The five most educated states overall are Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado, Connecticut and Vermont. The five least educated states are Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia.

While it may not be surprising that the least educated states are all in the south and the most educated are primarily in the northeast, some of the other category rankings are slightly more unexpected.

California ranked as the 29th most educated state, but it has the lowest percentage of high school diploma holders in the entire country.

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Georgia ranked on the low end of most educated states, 35th overall, but they have the second highest average university quality in the nation.

In eighth place, Minnesota scored high in overall education but they also have the highest racial gap in educational attainment, meaning that education is more attainable for white people in the state than it is for people of color.

Attending a high quality elementary school increases the likelihood that students will attend a four-year university and have more opportunities available to them later in life.

"Recent research has shown that being in a higher quality classroom in grades K-3 is linked to a higher likelihood of attending college and increased earnings in early adulthood," F. Chris Curran, assistant professor in the school of public policy at the University of Maryland, told WalletHub.

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For students in the most educated states, their access to quality education in elementary school largely contributes to their attainment of higher education.

There are many obvious benefits of having a highly educated population, but are there any downfalls? As long as education aligns with the needs of the community there aren't many negatives, according to the experts consulted in WalletHub's analysis.

"There are numerous examples internationally of countries that succeed in educating significant portions of their population but fail to stimulate workforce opportunities that align with and make use of individuals' education," said Curran.

"Working to link the education sector with the needs of the broader economy is critical to ensure that individuals are equipped to both contribute to society and benefit from their advanced education."

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