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: 30.8%
> Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders: $51,199 (16th highest)
> Median household income: $56,907 (23rd highest)
> 2016 unemployment: 5.4% (9th highest)
The share of adults with a bachelor’s degree increased more in Pennsylvania in the last four years than in all but three other states. An estimated 30.8% of Pennsylvania adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to the state’s 2012 college attainment rate of 27.8%. College-educated adults are more likely to hold advanced, high-paying jobs, and they often earn higher incomes than adults who did not graduate from a four-year college. As college attainment rose in Pennsylvania, the median household income rose as well, from $53,539 in 2012 to $56,907 in 2016.
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.