The Variety of Education Levels in US States

Variance in Education by US State - State Similarity Index

The State Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar states are to each other relative to other states. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. 20% of the index is based on demographics. 10% of a state’s demographic score (2% of the overall State Similarity Index) is allocated for the education level of its people. The following is an explanation on how they were calculated:

High School Graduates

California has the lowest percentage of high school graduates of any state. Over 15% of their people do not have degrees. One big reason for this is that it has the highest percentage of immigrants of any state. In addition, many of its immigrants work in industries such as agriculture, hospitality, and construction. A college degree is not needed for these professions. Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire have the highest percentage of high school graduates. These states are nearly 100% white and tend to have very few immigrants. However, another state that is nearly 100% white, West Virginia, has a less than average percentage of high school graduates.

Source: US Census Bureau

States were grouped into the following categories by percentage of high school graduates:
82.5-84.25, 84.25-86, 86-87.75, 87.75-89.5, 89.5-91.25, 91.25-93

College Graduates

The United States is one of the countries with the highest percentage of college graduates. Over 45% of people in Massachusetts have college degrees. It is home to Harvard University, the first college in the United States. Massachusetts also has a high concentration of colleges and universities. It is the second wealthiest state per capita, after Maryland. In stark contrast, Mississippi and West Virginia are the two states with the lowest percentage of college graduates. Less than 25% of their people have degrees. They are also two of the least wealthy states per capita. Still, the percentage of college graduates in these states is much higher than in most countries.

Source: US Census Bureau

States were grouped into the following categories by percentage of college graduates:
20-22, 22-24, 24-26, 26-28, 28-30, 30-32, 32-34, 34-36, 36-38, 38-40, 40-42

Advanced Degrees

An advanced degree typically refers to a graduate-level degree beyond a bachelor’s degree, in the United States. These includes Master’s degrees, Doctoral degrees, and professional degrees for medical doctors and lawyers. Over 20% of people in Massachusetts and Maryland have advanced degrees. Mississippi, Arkansas, and North Dakota have the lowest percentage in the country, with less than 9.5%. These are very rural states where many of the most highly educated individuals may leave the state to pursue job opportunities elsewhere.

Source: US Census Bureau

States were grouped into the following categories by percentage of people with advanced degrees:
7-9, 9-11, 11-13, 13-15, 15-17, 17-19

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