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: 26.1%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $46,065 (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $48,547 (8th lowest)
> 2016 unemployment: 4.8% (25th highest)
While the share of adults with a college education climbed 0.7 percentage points nationwide in 2016, it remained effectively unchanged in Tennessee. Today, only 26.1% of state residents 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 31.3% of adults nationwide.
Median incomes tend to be higher in states where more adults have gone to college. In Tennessee, the typical household earns only $48,547 a year, well below the median income nationwide of $57,617.
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.