With Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing a correlation between higher education levels, higher income, and lower unemployment rates, you might wonder where the Most & Least Educated States in America are located.

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

Impact of  K-12 School Quality

“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, peer effects, and 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,” said Michael F. Addonizio, Ph.D., professor, at 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’ efforts toward their goals are critical to bringing about successful learning outcomes. Considering a multilevel structure of environments surrounding individuals and 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, at Xavier University.

To what extent should states consider education policy?

“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,” said Jennie E. Brand, professor; director, of California Center for Population Research; co-director, Center for Social Statistics at University of California, Los Angeles.

“Education, from prekindergarten to university, remains our state’s largest and most important investment. Decades of research have identified links between economic prosperity and education, and investments in education, particularly higher education, are now recognized as an effective economic development tool. State investment in education is an effective long-run strategy not only for a state’s economy and residents but for its public finances and budget as well. Even though education spending at all levels typically constitutes over half of a state’s total budget, these investments pay off handsomely in the long run…the majority of students graduating from state schools will remain in the state over their work careers. Their advanced skills and training will increase their earnings and their tax payments as well as lower their reliance on public assistance programs,”
Addonizio said.

Will reductions in public funding for higher ed make states less competitive?

“Indisputably: Yes. Such reductions will reduce the ‘talent pool’ of the population and the capabilities of many college graduates who enter the workplace in the state,” said
Clifton Conrad, professor, at University of Wisconsin–Madison in collaboration with Gerald Dryer, Ph.D., a student at 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. 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.,” Addonizio said.

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Source: WalletHub