Most and least educated states in America

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August 11, 2021
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Most and least educated states in America

More than 50 million Americans each year attend public elementary and secondary schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, making the country's schooling system one of the farthest-reaching (and most impactful) government services. And while debate over alternatives like charter schools rages on, one thing is undebatable: The future of the country lies in our youth, and our ability to educate them.

Because education is handled at the state level, from curricula and budgets to graduation requirements, a standard American education is hard to define.

To help understand areas with the highest educational attainment, Stacker used data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates (released in December 2020) to construct a weighted index that measures the relative education level for every state. This index evaluates each state's population older than 25 across seven educational tiers, ranging from individuals not educated past eighth grade to those with graduate or professional degrees.

For each segment of these tiers, a points-based indexing system was applied in direct proportion to the estimated years of schooling for each level of educational attainment. Lastly, the full range of index scores was normalized to a 0 to 100 scale, with 100 representing the most educated state in the United States. What follows is a ranking from least to most educated of all the 50 states, using the percentage of people who earned a bachelor’s degree as a tiebreaker.

Where does your state stack up? Read on to discover which states are the most educated in the U.S.

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#50. West Virginia

- Education index: 91.45
- Less than high school: 4.3%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8.8%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 40.3%
- Some college, no degree: 18.6%
- Associate's degree: 7.3%
- Bachelor's degree: 12.4%
- Graduate or professional degree: 8.2%

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#49. Mississippi

- Education index: 92.23
- Less than high school: 5.1%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 10.4%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 30.4%
- Some college, no degree: 22.3%
- Associate's degree: 9.8%
- Bachelor's degree: 13.7%
- Graduate or professional degree: 8.4%

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#48. Louisiana

- Education index: 92.23
- Less than high school: 4.9%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 9.9%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 34.0%
- Some college, no degree: 20.9%
- Associate's degree: 6.2%
- Bachelor's degree: 15.7%
- Graduate or professional degree: 8.4%

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#47. Arkansas

- Education index: 92.39
- Less than high school: 4.8%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8.6%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 34.0%
- Some college, no degree: 22.3%
- Associate's degree: 7.2%
- Bachelor's degree: 14.8%
- Graduate or professional degree: 8.3%

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#46. Kentucky

- Education index: 92.76
- Less than high school: 5.5%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8.2%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 32.9%
- Some college, no degree: 20.8%
- Associate's degree: 8.3%
- Bachelor's degree: 14.2%
- Graduate or professional degree: 10.0%

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Stan Shebs // Wikimedia Commons

#45. Nevada

- Education index: 93.20
- Less than high school: 5.5%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.8%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 28.1%
- Some college, no degree: 25.5%
- Associate's degree: 8.3%
- Bachelor's degree: 16.2%
- Graduate or professional degree: 8.6%

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#44. Alabama

- Education index: 93.25
- Less than high school: 4.3%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 9.5%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 30.8%
- Some college, no degree: 21.4%
- Associate's degree: 8.5%
- Bachelor's degree: 15.9%
- Graduate or professional degree: 9.5%

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Urbanative // Wikimedia Commons

#43. Oklahoma

- Education index: 93.43
- Less than high school: 4.0%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.9%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 31.3%
- Some college, no degree: 23.3%
- Associate's degree: 7.8%
- Bachelor's degree: 16.8%
- Graduate or professional degree: 8.7%

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#42. Texas

- Education index: 93.66
- Less than high school: 8.2%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8.1%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 25.0%
- Some college, no degree: 21.6%
- Associate's degree: 7.2%
- Bachelor's degree: 19.5%
- Graduate or professional degree: 10.4%

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#41. Tennessee

- Education index: 93.80
- Less than high school: 4.6%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.9%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 32.1%
- Some college, no degree: 20.7%
- Associate's degree: 7.3%
- Bachelor's degree: 17.2%
- Graduate or professional degree: 10.1%

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#40. Indiana

- Education index: 94.03
- Less than high school: 3.7%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.5%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 33.4%
- Some college, no degree: 20.2%
- Associate's degree: 8.8%
- Bachelor's degree: 16.9%
- Graduate or professional degree: 9.5%

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Thomas Shahan // Wikimedia Commons

#39. New Mexico

- Education index: 94.14
- Less than high school: 6.0%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8.4%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 26.5%
- Some college, no degree: 23.4%
- Associate's degree: 8.4%
- Bachelor's degree: 15.4%
- Graduate or professional degree: 12.0%

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Pixabay // Picryl

#38. South Carolina

- Education index: 94.55
- Less than high school: 4.1%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8.4%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 29.1%
- Some college, no degree: 20.5%
- Associate's degree: 9.8%
- Bachelor's degree: 17.8%
- Graduate or professional degree: 10.3%

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W. Bulach // Wikimedia Commons

#37. Arizona

- Education index: 95.05
- Less than high school: 5.5%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.4%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 23.9%
- Some college, no degree: 25.2%
- Associate's degree: 8.6%
- Bachelor's degree: 18.4%
- Graduate or professional degree: 11.1%

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#36. Ohio

- Education index: 95.09
- Less than high school: 2.8%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.8%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 33.0%
- Some college, no degree: 20.4%
- Associate's degree: 8.7%
- Bachelor's degree: 17.6%
- Graduate or professional degree: 10.7%

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#35. California

- Education index: 95.10
- Less than high school: 9.2%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.5%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 20.5%
- Some college, no degree: 21.1%
- Associate's degree: 7.8%
- Bachelor's degree: 21.2%
- Graduate or professional degree: 12.8%

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#34. Florida

- Education index: 95.11
- Less than high school: 4.8%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.0%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 28.6%
- Some college, no degree: 19.9%
- Associate's degree: 9.8%
- Bachelor's degree: 18.9%
- Graduate or professional degree: 11.0%

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#33. Idaho

- Education index: 95.19
- Less than high school: 3.3%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.9%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 27.4%
- Some college, no degree: 26.0%
- Associate's degree: 9.8%
- Bachelor's degree: 18.6%
- Graduate or professional degree: 9.0%

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#32. Georgia

- Education index: 95.21
- Less than high school: 4.6%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8.2%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 27.7%
- Some college, no degree: 20.3%
- Associate's degree: 7.8%
- Bachelor's degree: 19.2%
- Graduate or professional degree: 12.1%

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#31. Missouri

- Education index: 95.24
- Less than high school: 3.1%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.9%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 30.6%
- Some college, no degree: 22.2%
- Associate's degree: 7.9%
- Bachelor's degree: 18.0%
- Graduate or professional degree: 11.2%

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#30. South Dakota

- Education index: 95.49
- Less than high school: 3.0%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.3%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 30.2%
- Some college, no degree: 21.1%
- Associate's degree: 11.5%
- Bachelor's degree: 19.9%
- Graduate or professional degree: 8.9%

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#29. North Carolina

- Education index: 95.70
- Less than high school: 4.5%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.7%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 25.7%
- Some college, no degree: 21.2%
- Associate's degree: 9.7%
- Bachelor's degree: 20.0%
- Graduate or professional degree: 11.3%

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#28. Michigan

- Education index: 95.77
- Less than high school: 2.9%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.3%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 28.9%
- Some college, no degree: 23.4%
- Associate's degree: 9.4%
- Bachelor's degree: 17.7%
- Graduate or professional degree: 11.4%

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#27. Iowa

- Education index: 95.78
- Less than high school: 3.1%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.9%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 31.0%
- Some college, no degree: 21.0%
- Associate's degree: 11.6%
- Bachelor's degree: 19.3%
- Graduate or professional degree: 9.3%

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GPA Photo Archive // Flickr

#26. Pennsylvania

- Education index: 95.82
- Less than high school: 3.2%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.3%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 34.7%
- Some college, no degree: 15.9%
- Associate's degree: 8.5%
- Bachelor's degree: 19.0%
- Graduate or professional degree: 12.4%

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#25. Wyoming

- Education index: 95.97
- Less than high school: 1.8%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.0%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 29.1%
- Some college, no degree: 25.5%
- Associate's degree: 11.2%
- Bachelor's degree: 17.5%
- Graduate or professional degree: 9.9%

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#24. Wisconsin

- Education index: 96.15
- Less than high school: 2.7%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.1%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 30.6%
- Some college, no degree: 20.6%
- Associate's degree: 10.9%
- Bachelor's degree: 19.7%
- Graduate or professional degree: 10.4%

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Bruce Goerlitz Photo // Shutterstock

#23. Delaware

- Education index: 96.15
- Less than high school: 3.5%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.4%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 31.3%
- Some college, no degree: 18.9%
- Associate's degree: 7.9%
- Bachelor's degree: 18.6%
- Graduate or professional degree: 13.4%

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#22. Alaska

- Education index: 96.24
- Less than high school: 2.5%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.6%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 28.0%
- Some college, no degree: 26.7%
- Associate's degree: 8.6%
- Bachelor's degree: 18.3%
- Graduate or professional degree: 11.2%

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USFWS Mountain-Prairie // Flickr

#21. North Dakota

- Education index: 96.25
- Less than high school: 3.1%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.3%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 26.4%
- Some college, no degree: 22.3%
- Associate's degree: 13.8%
- Bachelor's degree: 21.8%
- Graduate or professional degree: 8.2%

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#20. Rhode Island

- Education index: 96.51
- Less than high school: 5.1%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.1%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 28.3%
- Some college, no degree: 18.0%
- Associate's degree: 8.4%
- Bachelor's degree: 20.4%
- Graduate or professional degree: 13.8%

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#19. Nebraska

- Education index: 96.57
- Less than high school: 3.8%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.8%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 26.1%
- Some college, no degree: 22.8%
- Associate's degree: 10.6%
- Bachelor's degree: 21.0%
- Graduate or professional degree: 10.9%

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Matthew Rutledge // Flickr

#18. New York

- Education index: 96.68
- Less than high school: 6.1%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.0%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 26.0%
- Some college, no degree: 15.5%
- Associate's degree: 8.7%
- Bachelor's degree: 20.5%
- Graduate or professional degree: 16.0%

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#17. Maine

- Education index: 96.78
- Less than high school: 2.6%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.8%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 31.5%
- Some college, no degree: 19.3%
- Associate's degree: 10.1%
- Bachelor's degree: 20.0%
- Graduate or professional degree: 11.8%

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#16. Hawaii

- Education index: 96.79
- Less than high school: 3.7%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.3%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 27.4%
- Some college, no degree: 20.9%
- Associate's degree: 10.7%
- Bachelor's degree: 21.7%
- Graduate or professional degree: 11.2%

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Joseph Norton and Ronald Frazier // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Illinois

- Education index: 96.86
- Less than high school: 4.8%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.0%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 26.0%
- Some college, no degree: 20.5%
- Associate's degree: 8.1%
- Bachelor's degree: 21.1%
- Graduate or professional degree: 13.6%

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James Watkins // Flickr

#14. Kansas

- Education index: 96.98
- Less than high school: 3.6%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.5%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 25.9%
- Some college, no degree: 23.0%
- Associate's degree: 8.7%
- Bachelor's degree: 21.1%
- Graduate or professional degree: 12.3%

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#13. Montana

- Education index: 97.02
- Less than high school: 1.9%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.5%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 28.8%
- Some college, no degree: 23.4%
- Associate's degree: 9.3%
- Bachelor's degree: 21.5%
- Graduate or professional degree: 10.6%

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#12. Oregon

- Education index: 97.18
- Less than high school: 3.5%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.7%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 22.7%
- Some college, no degree: 25.4%
- Associate's degree: 8.9%
- Bachelor's degree: 20.8%
- Graduate or professional degree: 12.9%

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#11. Utah

- Education index: 97.52
- Less than high school: 2.7%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.0%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 22.8%
- Some college, no degree: 25.7%
- Associate's degree: 9.7%
- Bachelor's degree: 22.5%
- Graduate or professional degree: 11.5%

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Andrew Zarivny // Shutterstock

#10. New Jersey

- Education index: 98.01
- Less than high school: 4.9%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.3%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 27.2%
- Some college, no degree: 16.4%
- Associate's degree: 6.5%
- Bachelor's degree: 24.2%
- Graduate or professional degree: 15.5%

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#9. Washington

- Education index: 98.06
- Less than high school: 3.7%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.0%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 22.0%
- Some college, no degree: 23.3%
- Associate's degree: 10.0%
- Bachelor's degree: 22.4%
- Graduate or professional degree: 13.6%

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#8. Minnesota

- Education index: 98.42
- Less than high school: 2.9%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.0%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 24.6%
- Some college, no degree: 21.0%
- Associate's degree: 11.5%
- Bachelor's degree: 23.7%
- Graduate or professional degree: 12.4%

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#7. Virginia

- Education index: 98.50
- Less than high school: 4.1%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.2%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 24.0%
- Some college, no degree: 19.2%
- Associate's degree: 7.8%
- Bachelor's degree: 22.0%
- Graduate or professional degree: 16.8%

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#6. Vermont

- Education index: 98.60
- Less than high school: 2.2%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.1%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 28.8%
- Some college, no degree: 17.1%
- Associate's degree: 8.7%
- Bachelor's degree: 22.5%
- Graduate or professional degree: 15.5%

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#5. New Hampshire

- Education index: 98.61
- Less than high school: 2.1%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.8%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 27.4%
- Some college, no degree: 18.5%
- Associate's degree: 10.2%
- Bachelor's degree: 22.7%
- Graduate or professional degree: 14.3%

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#4. Connecticut

- Education index: 98.63
- Less than high school: 4.0%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.3%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 26.9%
- Some college, no degree: 16.8%
- Associate's degree: 7.7%
- Bachelor's degree: 21.8%
- Graduate or professional degree: 17.5%

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#3. Maryland

- Education index: 98.85
- Less than high school: 4.0%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.8%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 24.6%
- Some college, no degree: 18.7%
- Associate's degree: 6.7%
- Bachelor's degree: 21.5%
- Graduate or professional degree: 18.6%

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#2. Colorado

- Education index: 99.48
- Less than high school: 3.4%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.9%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 21.4%
- Some college, no degree: 21.1%
- Associate's degree: 8.4%
- Bachelor's degree: 25.6%
- Graduate or professional degree: 15.3%

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#1. Massachusetts

- Education index: 100.00
- Less than high school: 4.4%
- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.9%
- High school graduate or equivalent: 24.0%
- Some college, no degree: 15.4%
- Associate's degree: 7.6%
- Bachelor's degree: 24.1%
- Graduate or professional degree: 19.6%

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