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WalletHub Study Details State’s Higher Education Rankings

With BLS, Bureau of Labor Statistics, data showing a correlation between higher education levels, higher income and lower unemployment rates, the personal-finance website WalletHub has released its report on 2023’s Most & Least Educated States in America, as well as expert commentary.

In order to determine the most educated states, WalletHub compared all 50 states across 18 metrics that examined the key factors of a well-educated population: educational attainment, school quality and achievement gaps between genders and races.


How educated is California? (1=Most; 25=Avg.):

50th – Percentage of High-School Diploma Holders

23rd – Percentage of Associate’s Degree Holders or College-Experienced Adults

14th – Percentage of Bachelor’s Degree Holders

14th – Percentage of Graduate- or Professional-Degree Holders

6th – Average University Quality

34th – Racial Gap in Educational Attainment

1st – Gender Gap in Educational Attainment

For the full report, visit:


Expert Commentary

What’s the impact of K-12 school quality on rates of high school completion and later college attendance and completion?

“School quality does not have a simple definition because good educational outcomes like good grades or scores on standardized achievement tests can be attributed to student effort, family support, and peer effects, as well as high-quality teachers and schools. That said, we have much U.S. evidence that students who do better in school, through either grades or test scores, tend to go farther in school. Research by Harvard economist Richard Murnane and colleagues suggests that one-third to one-half of the economic benefits of higher student achievement come from more schooling. That is, school quality improvements that raise student performance keep students in school longer, which leads to higher graduation rates at all levels of schooling.”

Michael F. Addonizio, Ph.D. – Professor, Wayne State University


“There might be evidence that shows a positive correlation between K-12 school quality and K-12 short-term and long-term outcomes. The evidence does not necessarily mean K-12 school quality causes such outcomes, but rather K-12 school quality linked with multiple factors (e.g., parents’ involvement in their children’s learning process, community-level socioeconomic status, and a nation’s political and economic system, etc.) contributes to individuals’ K-12 short-term and long-term outcomes. Importantly, children themselves’ own efforts toward their goals are critical to bringing about their successful learning outcomes. Considering a multilevel structure of environments surrounding individuals as well as individual differences in learning processes, we could not attribute a single indicator such as K-12 school quality to one’s learning outcomes.”

Ahlam Lee, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Xavier University


To what extent should states consider education policy as part of a broader economic development strategy?

“State disinvestment in higher education is an extremely short-sighted strategy. We need greater investment in higher education – such as building more colleges and making them more affordable – to meet student demand for education and meet employer demand for more educated and skilled workers. This is part of a broader economic development strategy to enrich states. But it is also part of a broader social policy. As we know that education is associated with far-ranging benefits, such as better health and more social and political participation, and less reliance on social assistance, we benefit collectivity from a more educated population.”

Jennie E. Brand – Professor; Director, California Center for Population Research; Co-Director, Center for Social Statistics, University of California, Los Angeles


Will the reductions in public funding for higher education make states less competitive in the long run?

“Indisputably: Yes. Such reductions will reduce the ‘talent pool’ of the population and the capabilities of many of those college graduates who enter the workplace in the state.”

Clifton Conrad – Professor, University of Wisconsin–Madison in collaboration with Gerald Dryer, PhD Student, University of Wisconsin–Madison


“Research strongly suggests so. A study by Federal Reserve economists examined factors contributing to greater state prosperity over 65 years and found that a state’s high school and college attainment rates were key determinants of per capita income growth relative to other states between 1939 and 2004. (Bauer, Schweitzer, and Shane 2006) …Unfortunately, state policymakers have often failed to take the long view on educational investment, particularly at the postsecondary level. From 1990-91 to 2009-10, real funding per student at public colleges and universities declined 26 percent, and the share of state personal income allocated to higher education fell 30 percent, while tuition at four-year institutions more than doubled and rose 71 percent at community colleges, according to a 2012 study cited by the Economic Policy Institute. During a time when a changing economy demanded new skills and states needed to improve access to higher education, they did just the opposite. An older generation would call that being ‘penny-wise and pound-foolish.’”

Michael F. Addonizio, Ph.D. – Professor, Wayne State University