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States With the Largest Brain Drains

Higher Ed

The U.S. is getting smarter. The percentage of educated people living in the U.S. is on the rise. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the total percentage of our population with a high school, bachelor’s or advanced degree increased by 0.6% when looking at 2008 to 2009, the most recent statistics available.

In 2009, 85.3% of Americans received a high school degree, 27.9% earned a college diploma and 10.3% completed an advanced degree program, such as a doctorate or a master’s. Compare this to 2008 when the numbers were slightly lower: 85% graduated high school, 27.7% graduated college and 10.2% completed an advanced degree program.

Of course, not every state contributed to the increase. In terms of educational attainment — the fancy census phrase for earning a diploma — some states are becoming decidedly less educated.

Photo Credit: James Almond

The Brain Drain

To figure out which states are becoming more or less scholarly, MainStreet compared 2009 census data on educational attainment to 2008 census data, and looked at the net change in each of three categories –high school, bachelor’s and advanced degrees earned. Overall, the results were quite promising. Only seven states decreased year over year, one remained stagnant and 17 experienced a one point or greater increase in educated residents.

Keep in mind that this list isn’t meant to feature the states with the smallest population of degree-holders, it examines the states that are seeing increases or declines in the educated population. The honor of the least educated state should go to Mississippi, which had the lowest overall percentage of high school graduates, the second lowest overall percentage of college grads and the fifth lowest percentage of those with doctorates or master’s.

The states listed here simply had fewer residents graduating high school, college or advanced degree programs in 2009 than they did a year earlier. But for comparison purposes, we kick off the roundup with five states that have had an increase of educated residents, since they deserve some recognition too.

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC

5th Biggest Educational Increase: Kentucky

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2008: 81.3%

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2009: 81.7%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2008: 19.7%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2009: 21%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2008: 7.9%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2009: 8.5%

Total Overall Increase: 2.3 percentage points

Photo Credit:  w.marsh

4th Biggest Educational Increase: Louisiana

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2008: 81.2%

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2009: 82.2%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2008: 20.3%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2009: 21.4%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2008: 6.5%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2009: 6.9%

Total Overall Increase: 2.5 percentage points

Photo Credit: The Pug Father

3rd Biggest Educational Increase: Vermont

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2008: 90.6%

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2009: 91%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2008: 32.1%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2009: 33.1%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2008: 12.2%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2009: 13.3%

Total Overall Increase: 2.5 percentage points

Photo Credit: Bruce Tuten

2nd Biggest Educational Increase:  Maine

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2008: 89.7%

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2009: 90.2%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2008: 25.4%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2009: 26.9%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2008: 8.9%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2009: 9.6%

Total Overall Increase: 2.7 percentage points

Photo Credit: fortes

Biggest Overall Educational Increase: District of Columbia

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2008: 85.8%

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2009: 87.1%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2008: 48.2%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2009: 48.5%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2008: 26.7%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2009: 28%

Total Overall Increase: 2.9 percentage points

Photo Credit: Vinoth Chandar

5th Biggest Educational Decline: Michigan

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2008: 88.1%

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2009: 87.9%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2008: 24.7%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2009: 24.6%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2008: 9.4%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2009: 9.4%

Total Overall Decrease:  -0.4 percentage points

Note: We found that Michigan actually tied for fifth place with South Dakota and Florida, which also experienced 0.4 percentage point declines from 2008 to 2009. The state saw a drop two of the three measured categories - high school and college graduates declined as advanced degrees remained flat – whereas South Dakota and Florida only saw drops in one category apiece, which is why we ranked Michigan on our list and not the other two states.

Photo Credit: femaletrumpet2

4th Biggest Educational Decline: North Dakota

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2008: 89.6%

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2009: 90.1%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2008: 26.9%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2009: 25.8%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2008: 6.6%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2009: 6.7%

Total Overall Decrease: -0.5 percentage points

Photo Credit:  afiler

3rd Biggest Educational Decline: Utah

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2008: 90.4%

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2009: 90.4%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2008: 29.1%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2009: 28.5%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2008: 9.4%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2009: 9.1%

Total Overall Decrease: -0.9 percentage points

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbert Photography

2nd Biggest Educational Decline: New Hampshire

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2008: 90.9%

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2009: 91.3%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2008: 33.3%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2009: 32%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2008: 12.0%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2009: 11.2%

Total Overall Increase: -1.7 percentage points

Photo Credit: Leventhal Map Center

Biggest Overall Educational Decline: Alaska

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2008: 91.6%

Percentage of Population with High School Degree or more in 2009: 91.4%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2008: 27.3%

Percentage of Population with Bachelor’s Degree or more in 2009: 26.6%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2008: 9.7%

Percentage of Population with Advanced Degree in 2009: 9%

Total Overall Decrease: -1.8 percentage points

Photo Credit: Len@Loblolly Photo

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