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: 28.9%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $50,479 (21st highest)
> Median household income: $53,558 (20th lowest)
> 2016 unemployment: 5.3% (13th highest)
Educational attainment increased more in Arizona than in nearly any other state over the past year. While nationwide the share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree rose from 30.6% in 2015 to 31.3% in 2016, in Arizona the college attainment rate rose from 27.7% to 28.9%. College graduates in Arizona earn roughly $22,800 more a year than high school graduates, and as educational attainment increased in the state, median household income rose as well. The typical Arizona household earned $53,558 in 2016, approximately $1,500 more than the year prior.
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.