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Map shows huge differences in educational attainment across U.S.

West Virginia and Mississippi are at the bottom of the educational attainment table and Massachusetts is the state with the highest share of Bachelor's degree holders - beaten only by the District of Columbia
Only 1 in 5 West Virginians has a Bachelor's degree; almost 3 in 5 inhabitants of DC do

In 2000, just 26% of adult Americans aged 25 and older had a Bachelor’s degree (or higher). By 2015, the share of Americans 25 and over with a college or university degree had risen to just under a third. This year, it’s reached 34%.


Educational attainment may be rising fast in the U.S., but it’s spread unevenly. There is a slight gender imbalance: more women than men have at least a Bachelor’s degree (35% vs. 34%). And a marked racial distinction, with 55% of Asian Americans aged 25 and older having Bachelor’s degree or higher.

But the variation is also geographic, as this map (based on 2016 data) shows.

  • The District of Columbia is the best-educated part of the country: 56.8% of its residents have at least a Bachelor’s degree.
  • Second is Massachusetts, with 42.7%. While a lot of dark blue clusters on the East Coast, the third-highest score is for Colorado, way out west: 39.9%.
  • Worst-scoring state is West Virginia, where just 20.8% of the residents 25 and older have at least a Bachelor’s degree. That’s just over a third of the share of Bachelor’s degree holders in DC. 
  • The Mountain State is marginally outperformed by Mississippi, where 21.8% have completed a college or university education.

Educational attainment is linked to income. In 2016, the average median income as divided per highest attained degree was as follows:

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  • $27,800 – didn’t finish high school
  • $36,700 – high school or equivalent
  • $67,300 – Bachelor’s degree
  • $95,200 – advanced degree

Map found here at Overflow Data, via Simon Kuestenmacher. Additional information here at Marketing Charts.

Strange Maps #907

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.


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