The 2011 American Community Survey, a 5-year compilation released by the US Census Bureau, details graduation rates for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia which, for statistical purposes, is treated as a state.
But declaring which of the United States has the most educated population depends on the metric used — is the most educated state the one with the highest percentage of high school graduates, or the highest percentage of college graduates?
Wyoming, with a population of about 365,000 adults over the age of 25, tops the list with a a 91.9% high school graduation rate — but is only 40th when measuring adults with a Bachelor’s degree or higher at 24.2%.
The District of Columbia provides an interesting contrast to Wyoming. DC’s 400,000-strong adult population comes in at 28th with 87.1% holding a high school diploma, but tops the college-educated rankings with a whopping 50.5% of its population having earned a 4-year degree or better.
States with solid aggregate showings — a high percentage of both high school graduates and college graduates — include New Hampshire, Vermont, Colorado, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey.
States in the south largely populate the bottom of the list on both measures. Louisiana comes in at 48th for high school and 47th for college; Arkansas at 44th and 50th; West Virginia at 45th and 51st; Alabama at 46th for both; Kentucky at 47th and 48th; and Mississippi at 51st and 49th.
California and Texas, the two states with the largest adult population, continue to struggle with producing high school graduates; they are 49th and 50th, respectively, on that measure, while California is 15th with 30.2% of its graduates holding 4-year degrees and Texas at 30th with 26.1%.
G. Scott Thomas of BizJournals has produced a database of states’ education attainment based on this data that can be sorted by both rankings.
Of ~206 million adults over the age of 25 nationwide, ~177 million (86%) hold high school diplomas, while ~59 million (28.5%) also hold bachelor’s degrees.
A similar database was produced by BizJournals in October that showed city-level data for each state.