With millions of Americans saddled with seemingly insurmountable levels of student debt, some are calling into question the practicality of obtaining a four-year college degree. Still, the share of Americans who have earned a bachelor’s degree rose last year. As of 2016, 31.3% of Americans age 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher — up from 30.6% the previous year and 29.1% in 2012.
Better educated populations tend to benefit from a range of positive socioeconomic outcomes. American adults with a bachelor’s degree generally earn higher incomes, are less susceptible to serious financial hardship, and are more desirable candidates for employers.
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 42.7%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $60,503 (4th highest)
> Median household income: $75,297 (4th highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 3.7% (10th lowest)
Massachusetts is the only state in the country where over 40% of residents 25 and older have at least a four-year college degree. The share of adults with a bachelor’s degree is also increasing faster in the Bay State than across the country on the whole. The share of college educated adults climbed by 1.2 percentage points between 2015 and 2016, the fifth highest increase among states.
24/7 Wall St. ranked each state by the share of adults 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree. In the most educated state, 42.7% of adults have a four-year college degree, more than double the share of 20.8% in the least educated state.
Editor’s note: Due to a fact-checking error, Idaho was incorrectly referred to as Iowa in a previous version of this article. This error has been corrected.