Top 10 Least-Educated U.S. States

Name the states where the lowest percentage of people over 25 have a four year college degree.
For the year 2020, according to the U.S. Census
Quiz by nonono
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Last updated: December 3, 2021
First submittedNovember 5, 2015
Times taken38,706
Average score60.0%
Rating4.31
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%
State
23.1
West Virginia
24.5
Mississippi
24.9
Arkansas
27.0
Oklahoma
27.2
Louisiana
%
State
27.4
Kentucky
27.8
Alabama
28.0
Nevada
28.2
Wyoming
28.4
South Dakota
+22
Level 65
Jan 18, 2016
I could have sworn I'd typed in Louisiana...oh well.
+5
Level 48
Dec 31, 2017
Me too. I totally typed in West Virginia!
+51
Level 49
Dec 17, 2018
Isn't it funny how all these seem to be Republican states?
+12
Level 87
Dec 2, 2019
There's definitely a connection but I'm pretty sure there's more to the story.
+45
Level 86
Dec 2, 2019
I think this has a lot more to do with the main types of employment in a state than political leanings. In a state where, say, mining or farming are a major source of income, people may be less inclined to seek out formal higher education. In a state like Utah, for example (which is VERY red), there is a large info. tech. sector and the majority of adults have a four year degree.
+5
Level 62
Feb 11, 2021
To add to this, high tech jobs typically attract more liberal people vs manufacturing or mining which mainly attract conservative people. There are some exceptions like Utah though.
+1
Level 65
Dec 30, 2021
I would speculate (as I am far from an expert) that non-urban poverty has more to do with it. That's why I guessed the "poor" southern states (as opposed to say Texas, Florida), and also why I guessed states like Wyoming, Nevada, Oklahoma, and New Mexico (that last one obviously didn't work).
+1
Level 48
Jan 1, 2022
That is true. But it really doesn't have much to do with politics. Like my state of West Virginia. We dig coal, it's our culture really. Our grandfathers did it and we still have a passion for it today. West Virginia in itself is just full of rough and tough people, who would rather risk their life going into a mine shaft than to go to school for 4 years. It's been like that since people first settled WV and it hasn't changed much since lol. We even still run illegal shine. That is, I will say for the people that stay. West Virginia I would argue is only at the top of this list is because for the most part the people who get educated leave. Raised here, got their education and left to the Carolinas. Because there is hardly any work here. People seek a better life and good jobs. And yeah, that happens in other states. But not on the level as WV. WV is known for people leaving. We top the nation. Eventually they come back and retire here, why WV is a retirement state too.
+1
Level 65
Jan 13, 2022
And I appreciate all who choose careers like coal mining. Without coal a good chunk of our country would be without power. There are many non-college professions that are absolutely essential to our way of life.
+4
Level 64
May 5, 2016
I literally got every single one except for #1.
+17
Level 88
Sep 1, 2017
Yeah, what a difference a "West" makes! Virginia is near the top most-educated states.
+26
Level 59
Dec 31, 2017
Make a separate East Virginia to show further contrast.
+4
Level 58
Jan 1, 2018
Yeah, because a bundle of federal civil servants, politicians and lobbyists live in Virginia. They let West Virginia swim for itself.
+6
Level 63
Jan 2, 2018
West Virginia broke away from Virginia in 1863 over the Civil War and slavery--the mostly mountainous counties in WV had no use for a slave economy and wanted to remain part of the Union.
+6
Level 83
Jan 4, 2018
The biggest geographical contrast in Virginia is between Northern Virginia (the DC suburbs) and the rest of the state. Though politically this area is similar to Richmond and the Virginia Beach area.
+3
Level 74
Sep 1, 2017
Same. Facepalm.
+41
Level 76
Sep 1, 2017
As the line from Casablanca says: "line up the usual suspects". Solid red states except for one purple-ish (Nevada).
+6
Level 75
Sep 3, 2017
I know, right? :P
+9
Level 55
Jan 15, 2018
As Dwight from The Office would say: false. Red has nothing to do with it. Most of these states are red, but most red states are not uneducated. There isn't a single East Coast state or Midwestern state in this list, to illustrate my point, even though the East Coast is generally more and more red the further south you go, and the Midwest is almost entirely red. There isn't a significant difference between the education level of the average New Yorker, for example, than the average North Carolinian or Georgian. The Southern states that were the most devastated by the Civil War have never fully recovered economically, and it's this lack of wealth that has led to a dearth in education (I'm from VA, btw)
+22
Level 61
Jan 10, 2019
What? Indiana is on the list. Most Midwestern states are either blue or swing states with the exception of, wait for it, Indiana. The only state on this list that didn't vote for Trump is Nevada.

Per the same study, here's a list of the 10 most educated states by % w/bachelor's degree. Guess which way they voted:

10. Minnesota

9. New York

8. New Hampshire

7. Vermont

6. Virginia

5. New Jersey

4. Connecticut

3. Maryland

2. Colorado

1. Massachusetts.

South Carolina, an East Coast state, ranks 39th. Wyoming, a deep red state in the West, ranks 40th; just outside of this bottom 10 list. New York is 9th, Georgia is 24th, NC is 26th.

Of the 20 best educated states by this measure, 3 voted for Trump - Kansas at 16, Utah at 15, and Texas at 20th. Of the 20 least educated, only 2 (Nevada and New Mexico, which had large populations turned off by his racism) did not vote for Trump.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_educational_attainment

+6
Level 55
Mar 5, 2019
Indiana wasn't on the list when I made the comment. Must have been updated since then. And no, you're wrong about Midwestern states not voting for Trump. He actually carried the majority of Midwestern states by a considerable margin. It is true that blue-collar non-union workers tend to vote Republican. Union members on the other hand tend to vote Democrat. West Virginia, the least educated state in the US, has always been a solid blue state until recently, because of coal miners' unions. When Hillary was ignorant and out-of-touch enough to actually go to WV and say "We're going to bankrupt the coal industry!" during her campaign, you can see why they ended up voting for Trump even though a lot of them voted for Obama. Remember that a significant number of Obama voters (9.2% according to a study by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group) voted for Trump in 2016. According to the same study, a total of around 13% of Trump voters had voted for Obama in 2012.
+3
Level 55
Mar 5, 2019
Here. Please use facts next time instead of ignorant, uneducated stereotypes ;)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obama-Trump_voters

https://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/president/

+1
Level 62
Aug 2, 2021
I beg to differ on that. The Midwest tends to vote blue i.e. Wisc., Minn., Mich. Ill. Even Iowa will vote blue at times. They go in spurts because half the state is red on the west and half is blue on the east. As for the East coast tends to turn red as you go south is also changing. I grew up in Iowa so know quite a bit of that landscape and now live in Virginia. NC and Georgia are slowly becoming blue and Virginia is already there. Virginia is like Iowa the west half is red and east half is mostly blue but Va. has such a population disparity with most on the coast they are trending to stay blue for a long time. Now you can say with the snowbirds from the Midwest now staying permanently in FL, you can say they are no longer a swing state and are red. As for NC and GA they have slowly been trending blue each election. GA finally broke the blue column with Trump and NC isn't far behind. These state except for VA tend to have red state legislatures because most of the populations are
+2
Level 62
Aug 2, 2021
because most of the populations for blue are centered closely in a few areas where as red voters are spread out which gives them control because they have more counties.
+2
Level 70
Dec 30, 2021
This is a pretty simple answer guys. There’s a correlation between not having college education and voting republican, regardless what state you live in. So education determines how you vote, and economy and culture determine whether you get educated or not.
+1
Level 70
Jan 4, 2022
West Virginia would more accurately have been described as a swing state throughout the bulk of the 20th century. But, taking into account that WV is the only state to have fairly consistently shrunk in population since the 1950's, there is likely a demographic explanation for why the state has voted Republican since 2000. In 2020, the idea was further confirmed by demographic data: the strongest correlation with voting Republican was religion, but the second strongest correlation was education level (with inverse correlation, i.e., the more education someone had, the less likely they were to vote Republican). That's not to say that any particular correlation was anything certain. It's just that college education made about 33% less likely for someone to vote for a Republican ticket.
+4
Level 75
Sep 3, 2017
I typed like half the states in the country, and got one. ONE!
+19
Level 55
Dec 31, 2017
Ever heard of the South lol
+35
Level 30
Dec 3, 2017
Just think of red states and you will get 9/10.
+3
Level 45
Dec 31, 2017
Never would have guessed Indiana.
+4
Level 45
Dec 31, 2017
Thanks Indiana, got 9 out of 10 cause of you...
+29
Level 58
Dec 31, 2017
omg what a surprise, republicans
+4
Level 55
Jan 15, 2018
Except that West Virginia, the most uneducated state in the country, has been solid blue for the last 50 years or so.
+25
Level 71
Jan 17, 2018
Where did you get that information from? West Virginia has been a stronghold for Republican presidential candidates since the 2000 Presidential elections. All of West Virginia's house members, as well as the State Governor, are Republicans.
+2
Level 55
Mar 5, 2019
Here. Political issues are almost always more nuanced than either side wants to admit.

https://www.270towin.com/states/West_Virginia

+15
Level 73
Dec 2, 2019
Wow, this is too rich. First he makes an objective statement, then when he's called out on it for it being false, he backtracks and excuses himself by relativizing the topic and saying things are more nuanced, then proceeds to link a webpage that directly objectively contradicts him. Quote from that page (pay attention to the last sentence): "Primarily Republican from 1900 until the Great Depression, the state was then reliably Democratic, with few exceptions through Bill Clinton's 2nd election in 1996. Since then, the state has become solidly Republican, with that party winning by an increasing margin in each election from 2000 through 2016". Good job. Keep on not letting reality bother your illusionary world. Fake news indeed.
+1
Level 76
Dec 3, 2019
Fake news.
+5
Level 51
Dec 30, 2021
Go fact check what you are saying before you say it. Fake news. It clearly says that for the last 20 years West Virginia has been republican.
+1
Level 70
Sep 14, 2022
Wow, sheeple, do your research. There’s zero evidence that West Virginia exists. You ever met someone from there? Of course not.
+7
Level 51
Dec 31, 2017
So the Kansas stereotype of uneducated farmers isn't as true as I thought...
+6
Level 59
Dec 31, 2017
yeah, I was surprised about that too. No Kansas or Nebraska!
+7
Level 45
Jun 25, 2019
Remember, a pretty decent percentage of Kansas' population is in Wichita or the Kansas City metro- both areas with pretty high education levels. In Nebraska, a little over a third of the population is in the Omaha metro area, and a decent chunk is also in the Lincoln area. While both of these states are very rural in terms of space, the people are highly concentrated. Alaska (where the overwhelming majority of people are in the Anchorage area), Idaho (where most people are in the Boise area), and Nevada (literally 2/3's of the state is in the county with Las Vegas) are in a similar boat.
+5
Level 78
Dec 2, 2019
Farming is really scientific these days and many farmers go to ag schools. A lot of the universities with "state" in their name have significant agriculture programs (eg, Ohio State, Iowa State, Washington State).
+3
Level 61
Dec 31, 2017
Kansas + Nebraska

Conservative + educated. Think prairie home companion and you're close.

+14
Level 63
Dec 31, 2017
No surprise that 9/10 are red conservative states.
+9
Level 65
Jan 1, 2018
It's the other way around... It's people in the areas left behind, often through no fault of their own, that are more susceptible to the Republican ideology.
+4
Level 52
Jan 2, 2018
I just started typing the stereotypical states where the population is generally disadvantaged. There was an article about Mississippi on the BBC newssite just this week, so that was my first guess.
+4
Level 45
Jun 25, 2019
And most of the southern states were solidly democratic at the state government level until 2010!

Kentucky, until 2016, had the only county in the country that had never voted republican until Trump came along (and no, it is not the county with Louisville or Lexington), and was the last southern state with a Democratic state house.

Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia and Arkansas are among the most ancestorly (sp?) Democratic states in the country.

+11
Level 61
Jan 2, 2018
Love to see how this correlates with per capita spending on education state by state
+10
Level 71
Jan 2, 2018
I'm sure it's entirely coincidence that these also happen to be mainly the country's most religious states as well.

Total coincidence.

+1
Level 51
Dec 30, 2021
Not completely. There are more religious states (i.e. Utah). There is definitely a correlation between the 2, but in some states people are sane enough in this polarized country to realize that one can follow an academic pathway in life while maintaining religion as a part of themselves.
+3
Level 75
Jan 3, 2018
I think it says something about the gentrification of college campuses that my home state of Indiana is internationally very well-known for its colleges (IU, Purdue, Notre Dame, etc.), yet relatively few of those degrees actually go to Hoosiers. Either that, or in-state students move away once they get a degree, which in that case I wouldn't blame them, LOL.
+4
Level 67
Jan 7, 2018
One of my coworkers (in Chicago) is from Indiana, and he always says Indiana is a "come-from" state, not a "go-to" state.
+1
Level 43
May 26, 2021
drove through indiana when i was 5, there was a very fun museum playplace thing.
+3
Level 83
Jan 4, 2018
Italy would rank just between Arkansas and Mississippi.
+11
Level 74
Apr 11, 2020
Different countries have different education systems and different meanings for 'college educated'. This is a bad metric for comparing countries.
+3
Level 83
Apr 11, 2020
Okay. It's still true.
+8
Level 61
Nov 15, 2018
Amazing to the amount of correlation people will try to apply as causation in this site's comments. Often it more conforms to their information bias.
+6
Level 55
Mar 5, 2019
Exactly. I tried to refute it, but there's too many of them!
+3
Level 87
Apr 4, 2019
Valiant effort though!
+9
Level 67
Dec 2, 2019
Eventually, you just need to look reality in the mouth. You can come up with every weird rationalization for why these states have lesser accomplishments, but the writing is on the wall. The American Bible Belt is, at least at the top governmental levels, an embarrassment. It prioritizes religion and football over progress and education. As long as that happens, people will have plenty of pejorative things to say about it. And they won't be wrong.
+3
Level 53
May 9, 2019
Well you sure proved everybody wrong with your comment.
+5
Level 65
Dec 2, 2019
True. But it's just as epistemically weak/suspect to believe that simply by refuting causation all correlation should be written off as information bias that lacks probative value.
+1
Level 51
Nov 20, 2018
Disappointed that my state (Oklahoma) is on here.
+3
Level ∞
Sep 26, 2019
The numbers have crept up a bit since the last iteration of this quiz. Personally, I'm not of the opinion that college education is an unalloyed good. If current trends continue, nearly everyone will have a college degree, yet the average person will be just as ignorant. Standards are already shockingly low, even at top universities. And of course the cost is ludicrous.
+4
Level 37
Apr 11, 2020
^ I agree. My four years of University in the US taught me nothing (save a more in depth study of American History, and American pronunciations) that I hadn't already learned at the equivalent of a US Junior College in the Netherlands. What a shame! In our parents' generation a high school education in the US was the equivalent of a college degree. It allowed them to function at a higher level than bachelor degree holders today. That's why so many of us have to opt for post-graduate degrees... to actually learn something useful.
+1
Level 70
Mar 22, 2021
There's a certain point where I think there's no way to make the majority of the population more skilled/knowledgeable, no matter how much you change the education system. Most people only have a certain capacity to remember old facts while learning new ones. I'm not necessarily saying this as an insult, it's just that the human brain can't retain that much information over a long time.

That being said, if we focused more on teaching valuable, important things in a child's formative years, they'll be more likely to remember it. I think that reforming the education system in primary school to high school would have a more significant impact in reducing ignorance levels than reforming it in college.

+8
Level 64
Dec 2, 2019
Not having a college degree does not mean you are uneducated. Most people who do tough work like mining, building a house or maintenance do not have a college degree. Not because they are not smart enough but because money and I bet most college kids could not screw a wheel on a car.
+2
Level 67
Dec 2, 2019
That is very true.
+3
Level 61
Dec 4, 2019
Educated and intelligent aren't the same thing. If your schooling ended with a high school diploma then yes, you are uneducated.
+5
Level 86
Dec 4, 2019
So the first 12 years of school don't count at all as education? If you graduate high school, of course you are educated...there are different levels of education, and different ways to educate oneself. You don't have to have a four year degree from a traditional university to call yourself educated. Of course you are right that educated and intelligent are not the same thing.
+2
Level 57
Dec 2, 2019
More like indoctrination.
+3
Level 67
Dec 2, 2019
This comment is unintentionally hilarious on so many levels.
+2
Level 81
Nov 10, 2020
Phil is correct - what diversity of opinion exists in academia? Parrot your prof, pass the class.
+11
Level 67
Dec 30, 2021
Phil is not correct. How many professors' classes have you sat in on? What you describe is not my experience at all. I have studied under, TAed for, and known socially many professors. None of them--not one--grades students based on "parroting." They don't want you to be an echo canyon. They want you to articulate your position in a way that shows an understanding of the material. I've received some very high grades from professors who disagreed with the views I espoused, because they could tell I understand the material.
+8
Level 67
Dec 30, 2021
And I'd add that this hysteria about "no diversity of opinion" in academia focuses entirely on a sliver of the social sciences. The hard sciences are not about "diversity of opinion." Physics is physics. The professor is not evaluating your opinions on scalar vs. vector quantities. He wants to see that you understand the difference. People in the common discourse act like every college professor teaches Gender Studies. This simply isn't so. Most courses are not about waxing philosophical. They are about mastering difficult concepts about which there is already an authoritative consensus.
+3
Level 67
Dec 2, 2019
Doesn't surprise me that many of the states are southern where in many cases they aren't even allowed to teach about evolution etc. Also most on the list voted for Trump. 'Nuff said right there frankly. Even not making the list is no great feat given how low America scores in international rankings about education. Maybe if they stopped teaching to a standardized test and focused more on critical thinking skills, they'd be better off.
+1
Level 28
Dec 4, 2019
I missed Arkansas (-_-)
+1
Level 28
Dec 4, 2019
And now I missed West Virginia (o_o)
+3
Level 87
Apr 11, 2020
Cool, another quiz to stereotype sections of the country and puff up the fragile egos of those who don't live there.
+2
Level 48
Mar 18, 2021
9 republican states and 1 swing state lmao as expected
+2
Level 43
May 26, 2021
haha because all republicans dumb amirite. uneducated =/= unintelligent
+2
Level 51
Dec 30, 2021
I'm going to say, regardless of which side you are on, the people who make such generalizations such as calling everybody on the other side dumb, or stupid, or whatever, are usually the same people who don't understand the complexity of the points at issue.
+2
Level 70
Mar 22, 2021
Wow, a state where Mississippi isn't last? It's a miracle!!!
+1
Level 43
May 26, 2021
a what where mississippi is last?
+2
Level 71
Dec 30, 2021
They would have been last but they were too dumb to fill out the paperwork correctly.
+1
Level 70
Dec 30, 2021
Whoops, meant to say quiz :P
+2
Level 23
Dec 30, 2021
Living in a midwest state and previously living in metropolitans, I know that this way of comparing education is severely flawed. Most jobs in the midwest/south are manufacturing and agriculture, to which almost none get a bachelor's degree. Most jobs are trade-oriented, meaning that at most you would go and seek an associate's degree, go to a trade school, or get taught on the job. Furthermore, the majority of rural associate's degrees require very few general education credits. IE: Why would a farmer need to know Beer's law? You can make an association that the more rural the state, the more specialized their education is. A much better metric for calculating education would be to compare higher-education capacity, availability, and trade certificates per population. Education has nothing to do with race, politics, or intelligence, but with everything aforementioned.
+1
Level 47
Dec 30, 2021
Yeehaw!
+2
Level 83
Dec 30, 2021
Years ago, my brother worked at Ciba-Geigy, which became Novartis. He worked in a department of about 12 people and was the only one there without a college degree. When his boss was away, he was the only one in the group who could run the department. Several of them couldn't even be trusted to simply file things alphabetically. By this quiz's standard, they were all "more educated" and my brother was the "least educated".
+1
Level 58
Dec 30, 2021
Proud to be a part of the political party that goes to 16 years of school!
+1
Level 59
Dec 31, 2021
Just missed Kentucky and SD
+1
Level 66
Jan 1, 2022
why do americans hate other americans so much lmao
+1
Level 83
Jan 1, 2022
Some hate others because the others are ignorant. Some hate others because they are themselves ignorant.
+2
Level 46
Jan 3, 2022
Isn't this just the fattest states mixed up in another order?
+2
Level 15
Jan 29, 2022
Nonono! I didn’t finish the quiz!