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Least educated county in every state

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amadscientist // Wikimedia Commons

Least educated county in every state

The value of traditional education can vary widely across the country. While a college degree has long been viewed as a critical step toward the American dream, growing costs have led many students to reconsider the return-on-investment of higher education. Meanwhile, local economies and individual circumstances can push others toward learning a trade or entering the workforce early.

These considerations aside, national statistics show a clear difference in earnings as they relate to educational attainment, as college graduates typically earn 65% more than those with only a high school degree.

To help understand areas with the lowest educational attainment, Stacker used data from the 2014–2018 American Community Survey to construct a weighted index that measures the relative education level for every county in the United States. This index evaluates each county’s over-25 population across seven educational tiers, ranging from individuals not educated past eighth grade to those with graduate or professional degrees. For each segment of these tiers, a points-based indexing system was applied in direct proportion to the estimated years of schooling for each level of educational attainment. Lastly, the full range of index scores was normalized to a 0 to 100 scale, with 100 representing the most educated county in the United States.

For each county, we've included supporting educational attainment data, as well as how it ranks nationally. Read on for a look at the least-educated county in every state and just what factors might have contributed to its status at the bottom of the educational pile.

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Pixabay

Alabama: Greene County

- Education index score: 75.32
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 9.4%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 14.7%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 36.8%
--- Some college, no degree: 21.5%
--- Associate's degree: 7.5%
--- Bachelor's degree: 6.4%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 3.7%
- Rank among all counties: #2,978 out of 3,142

An educated county is likely to begin with a strong school system, and the opposite is as likely to be true. Greene County had not one but two entries on the 2020–21 state of Alabama’s list of failing schools, including the flagship public high school.

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Don Becker // Wikimedia Commons

Alaska: Kusilvak Census Area

- Education index score: 73.30
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 7.5%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 14.8%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 53.6%
--- Some college, no degree: 16.6%
--- Associate's degree: 2.7%
--- Bachelor's degree: 3.3%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 1.5%
- Rank among all counties: #3,110 out of 3,142

The Kusilvak Census Area is one of the poorest counties not just in Alaska, but in the entire country. This means that local school districts don’t have as much of a tax base to draw from as they otherwise might have to help fund quality education. The area is also remote, making physical access to educational facilities more difficult than it would be in a more accessible or densely populated area.

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Chris Curtis // Shutterstock

Arizona: Yuma County

- Education index score: 75.57
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 14%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 13.8%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 25.9%
--- Some college, no degree: 24.3%
--- Associate's degree: 7.1%
--- Bachelor's degree: 9.7%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 5%
- Rank among all counties: #2,949 out of 3,142

One issue making Yuma County a more difficult place to get an education? A new policy in the county’s school requiring parents to show identification before enrolling their children in school. The county sits right alongside the border of Mexico, and the ACLU has sent the district a letter stating that the policy violates the legal right to free education.

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Thomas R Machnitzki // Wikimedia Commons

Arkansas: Lee County

- Education index score: 74.09
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 7.5%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 19.5%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 40.8%
--- Some college, no degree: 18.8%
--- Associate's degree: 4.4%
--- Bachelor's degree: 6.7%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 2.2%
- Rank among all counties: #3,085 out of 3,142

The state of Lee County’s schools is so dire that the state of Arkansas took control of the entire district. The state alleged that schools in Lee County did not provide accurate up-to-date transcripts for students, nor maintain the standards necessary for students to enroll in sufficient courses to graduate, compromising the county’s education level severely.

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amadscientist // Wikimedia Commons

California: Merced County

- Education index score: 74.32
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 18.5%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 12.1%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 25.8%
--- Some college, no degree: 22.4%
--- Associate's degree: 7.1%
--- Bachelor's degree: 9.1%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 4.8%
- Rank among all counties: #3,078 out of 3,142

The superintendent of Merced County’s troubled schools was put on probation in 2019 following allegations of a toxic workplace. The superintendent allegedly yelled at school staff, breaking them down to the point of tears and made several harassing comments, including those that would constitute sexual harassment.

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Billy Hathorn // Wikimedia Commons

Colorado: Bent County

- Education index score: 77.42
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 4.4%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 9.8%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 48.6%
--- Some college, no degree: 18.2%
--- Associate's degree: 6.5%
--- Bachelor's degree: 8.9%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 3.6%
- Rank among all counties: #2,551 out of 3,142

Drug use can complicate attempts to achieve academic credentials, and such may well be the case in Bent County. The county has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic, and local experts have said this makes it difficult for some children to focus on their education, since they may be caring for parents who use.

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JJBers // Flickr

Connecticut: Windham County

- Education index score: 82.09
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 3.5%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.8%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 33%
--- Some college, no degree: 22%
--- Associate's degree: 9.5%
--- Bachelor's degree: 14.9%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 9.3%
- Rank among all counties: #964 out of 3,142

One issue Windham County towns face in educating its residents is a smaller tax base. The county has a largely aging demographic, and without relatively young, working-age citizens to contribute to its tax coffers, local schools have fewer resources to channel into educating their students.

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Jimmy Emerson // Flickr

Delaware: Kent County

- Education index score: 81.44
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 4.2%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8.7%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 33.2%
--- Some college, no degree: 22.2%
--- Associate's degree: 8.2%
--- Bachelor's degree: 14.6%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 8.9%
- Rank among all counties: #1,197 out of 3,142

A major problem Kent County has in funding education for its residents is a healthy tax base. The county has a shortage of talent it has attracted to fill the county’s many job vacancies, so the county has fewer resources to fund public education. A new grant program aims to prepare more county residents for jobs in the area through educational training.

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Judy Gallagher // Flickr

Florida: Hendry County

- Education index score: 71.89
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 19.4%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 14.9%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 34.8%
--- Some college, no degree: 16.1%
--- Associate's degree: 6.6%
--- Bachelor's degree: 4.6%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 3.6%
- Rank among all counties: #3,125 out of 3,142

One issue Hendry County schools have faced recently in the quest to educate their students is inappropriate behavior by teachers toward students. Two teachers and a school secretary are under investigation for sending inappropriate photographs and engaging in inappropriate behavior with students—and in one of the county’s middle schools at that.

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J. Stephen Conn // Flickr

Georgia: Taliaferro County

- Education index score: 72.39
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 12.8%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 16%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 47.8%
--- Some college, no degree: 11.9%
--- Associate's degree: 4.6%
--- Bachelor's degree: 4.7%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 2.2%
- Rank among all counties: #3,122 out of 3,142

An analysis by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute of education and economic opportunities in the state often roughly corresponded to the county’s history in the antebellum era. In Taliaferro County, 63% of the population in 1860 were slaves, and 61% lived in poverty in 2018. The Institute drew a correlation between the lack of access to quality public education and consistently high poverty levels.

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karendesuyo // Flickr

Hawaii: Kalawao County

- Education index score: 82.07
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 4.3%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8.7%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 27.5%
--- Some college, no degree: 17.4%
--- Associate's degree: 17.4%
--- Bachelor's degree: 18.8%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 5.8%
- Rank among all counties: #974 out of 3,142

Kalawao County may be Hawaii’s least educated, but it doesn’t have much in the way of raw numbers to work with as it aims to make its way to a more broadly educated status. As of 2018, the county has only 88 residents, meaning that one of these residents lacking a diploma impacts the county over ten or even a hundred might in another county. Another factor impacting access to education? Kalawoa’s remote location.

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Kristen Taylor // Wikimedia Commons

Idaho: Clark County

- Education index score: 71.28
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 33.3%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.9%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 23.6%
--- Some college, no degree: 16.7%
--- Associate's degree: 4.9%
--- Bachelor's degree: 10.6%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 4.9%
- Rank among all counties: #3,132 out of 3,142

Clark County struggles to keep teachers to provide students with quality educations. One reason? The median pay for teachers in the county which is an average of $4,000 lower than it is for teachers in neighboring counties.

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agathman // Wikimedia Commons

Illinois: Alexander County

- Education index score: 76.91
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 4.9%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 14.2%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 37.8%
--- Some college, no degree: 22.6%
--- Associate's degree: 9.2%
--- Bachelor's degree: 8.9%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 2.4%
- Rank among all counties: #2,694 out of 3,142

An Illinois newspaper called Alexander County “a local and even national symbol of rural decline” which has hurt its tax base and ability to invest in educating residents. The county has struggled with years of job losses and budget deficits, creating a difficult cycle of declining tax revenue and brain drain, as lack of jobs forces educated residents to move elsewhere for work.

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Nyttend // Wikimedia Commons

Indiana: LaGrange County

- Education index score: 70.88
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 27.8%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8.4%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 32.4%
--- Some college, no degree: 15.2%
--- Associate's degree: 5.8%
--- Bachelor's degree: 7.8%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 2.6%
- Rank among all counties: #3,136 out of 3,142

Some who study education policy suggest that counties like LaGrange are hurting educationally from a move to a voucher system. One local school superintendent has said his research shows that a voucher school system has taken more than $1 million from the county’s school systems in just one year.

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Jared Winkler // Wikimedia Commons

Iowa: Crawford County

- Education index score: 76.15
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 10.7%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 11.6%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 36%
--- Some college, no degree: 20.5%
--- Associate's degree: 8.5%
--- Bachelor's degree: 9.4%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 3.4%
- Rank among all counties: #2,853 out of 3,142

Lax oversight of education in Crawford County starts early. One local woman sued alleging that the daycare center where she placed her young sons physically abused the boys when they acted out because of their ADHD and is pushing the county to put laws and safeguards in place so all county children can learn free of threat from physical harm.

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Jimmy Emerson // Flickr

Kansas: Seward County

- Education index score: 73.12
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 19.5%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 12.3%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 30.6%
--- Some college, no degree: 18.6%
--- Associate's degree: 7.9%
--- Bachelor's degree: 8.3%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 2.8%
- Rank among all counties: #3,112 out of 3,142

One Kansas Senate candidate speaking to Seward county residents had a clear message on necessary educational reforms in the county. The candidate said that the diversion of funds intended for education toward “other priorities” was a major problem taking from the county’s ability to educate its residents.

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J. Stephen Conn // Flickr

Kentucky: Clay County

- Education index score: 72.22
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 17.6%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 18.1%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 34.2%
--- Some college, no degree: 16.1%
--- Associate's degree: 4.4%
--- Bachelor's degree: 4.3%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 5.3%
- Rank among all counties: #3,123 out of 3,142

Clay County residents themselves highlighted several barriers to education during a listening tour from the area’s Council on Postsecondary Education president. Residents said they were not aware of how they could afford college and were largely unaware of how they could pay less than the “sticker price” of colleges through financial aid. Residents also said that they didn’t feel prepared to succeed in college, pointing to a lack of college preparatory material in area high schools.

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Stef // Flickr

Louisiana: East Carroll Parish

- Education index score: 73.35
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 7.1%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 24.4%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 38.8%
--- Some college, no degree: 17.5%
--- Associate's degree: 3.7%
--- Bachelor's degree: 6.6%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 1.9%
- Rank among all counties: #3,106 out of 3,142

Besides being the least-educated county in Louisiana, East Carroll Parish was also ranked the least healthy in the state, suggesting a correlation between health and education. The county came in last in terms of access to clean water, air, and health care, which may contribute to a sense of futility in the county regarding betterment, whether of the body or the mind.

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Halpaugh // Wikimedia Commons

Maine: Somerset County

- Education index score: 79.66
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 3.7%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8.4%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 40.2%
--- Some college, no degree: 19.1%
--- Associate's degree: 12.1%
--- Bachelor's degree: 11.6%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 4.9%
- Rank among all counties: #1,870 out of 3,142

One thing that might make it hard to learn? A rat infestation in school. And one Somerset County town has been plagued by exactly that and lacks the resources to adequately contend with the infestation, leaving students to worry about what might be crawling at their feet, instead of whatever is being written on the blackboard.

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Acroterion // Wikimedia Commons

Maryland: Somerset County

- Education index score: 77.76
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 5.1%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 12.9%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 40.3%
--- Some college, no degree: 20.6%
--- Associate's degree: 5.3%
--- Bachelor's degree: 10.6%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 5.1%
- Rank among all counties: #2,465 out of 3,142

Maryland education policy watchers note a particular challenge for Somerset County residents: remedial education. Children who have fallen behind are unlikely to magically be brought up to speed ready to start the following year, and a lack of one-on-one instruction is hampering the ability of these students to catch up to their peers in better-educated counties.

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Marc N. Belanger // Wikimedia Commons

Massachusetts: Bristol County

- Education index score: 81.91
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 7.9%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.2%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 29.9%
--- Some college, no degree: 18%
--- Associate's degree: 9.1%
--- Bachelor's degree: 17.8%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 10.2%
- Rank among all counties: #1,026 out of 3,142

Some children in Bristol County have much more than homework to worry about. County-watchers have noted that the county’s jail, for example, places strict visitation limits on prisons, so that a mother serving time behind bars for drug possession won’t be visited by their children—a harsher policy than exists on the state level. The county also has a disproportionately high rate of suicide, creating an atmosphere not exactly conducive to learning.

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George Thomas // Flickr

Michigan: Oscoda County

- Education index score: 77.19
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 5.6%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 11%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 37.6%
--- Some college, no degree: 27%
--- Associate's degree: 8%
--- Bachelor's degree: 7%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 3.7%
- Rank among all counties: #2,617 out of 3,142

Rather than education, Oscoda County is defined by a grim and sobering statistic: the second-highest suicide rate of any county in the state. Experts point not only to the opioid epidemic but also the lack of state-funded treatments to receive help for opioid addiction as explanations. This may contribute toward an environment is more of a crisis than one of expanded opportunity and access.

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Jonathunder // Wikimedia Commons

Minnesota: Nobles County

- Education index score: 76.54
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 13%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 9.2%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 32.5%
--- Some college, no degree: 20.5%
--- Associate's degree: 9.4%
--- Bachelor's degree: 11.2%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 4.1%
- Rank among all counties: #2,778 out of 3,142

While Nobles County is struggling educationally, one district thinks it may have the answer. The Brewster district has offered open enrollment in the past several years, allowing students who live outside the district to attend its schools. This has resulted in schools on the brink of closing now adding 20 or so students every year and receiving some state funding to match.

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Jimmy Emerson // Flickr

Mississippi: Issaquena County

- Education index score: 73.31
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 10.1%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 19.7%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 37.7%
--- Some college, no degree: 23.3%
--- Associate's degree: 2.5%
--- Bachelor's degree: 2.8%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 4%
- Rank among all counties: #3,108 out of 3,142

Although Issaquena County ranked last, better times may be on the horizon. In 2018, the county was found to have an astonishing 68.6% growth rate in terms of per capita income. (The county in second place had only 7.7% growth). This will likely translate into a larger tax base for the county to use to expand educational access.

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Jimmy Emerson // Flickr

Missouri: Scotland County

- Education index score: 74.84
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 16.1%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.8%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 39%
--- Some college, no degree: 19.1%
--- Associate's degree: 7%
--- Bachelor's degree: 8.8%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 3.2%
- Rank among all counties: #3,043 out of 3,142

Just getting to school has been a problem for some students in Scotland County. The county has a severe flooding problem, which required federal assistance, in the form of FEMA grants, to clear roads and bridges and repair critical infrastructure, without which students cannot get to school.

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J. Stephen Conn // Flickr

Montana: Liberty County

- Education index score: 76.11
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 20%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 23.8%
--- Some college, no degree: 24.9%
--- Associate's degree: 9.8%
--- Bachelor's degree: 11.7%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 4.8%
- Rank among all counties: #2,858 out of 3,142

Agriculture is a heavy focus in Liberty County. This means that when crops are bad—due to a drought, or other reasons—fewer resources of both time and money are available to put toward education, making it more difficult for the county to catch up to better-educated counties around the state.

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J. Stephen Conn // Flickr

Nebraska: Dakota County

- Education index score: 74.85
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 15.5%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 9.9%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 36.4%
--- Some college, no degree: 18%
--- Associate's degree: 7.6%
--- Bachelor's degree: 8.6%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 4%
- Rank among all counties: #3,041 out of 3,142

It’s difficult to stay in school as a teenager if you’re taking care of a newborn child. Dakota county has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the state, which may play a role in the relative lack of education in the county.

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Ken Lund // Flickr

Nevada: Pershing County

- Education index score: 78.08
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 7.9%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 10.4%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 33.7%
--- Some college, no degree: 25.2%
--- Associate's degree: 8%
--- Bachelor's degree: 7.8%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 7%
- Rank among all counties: #2,352 out of 3,142

Pershing County is extremely rural, which state education policy watchers have said can make it more difficult for them to attain quality educations. These students are more likely than others to change residences year-to-year, making a stable education elusive, and are also less likely to be enrolled in Advanced Placement and other college preparatory courses.

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P199 // Wikimedia Commons

New Hampshire: Coos County

- Education index score: 80.03
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 3.7%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.7%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 40.1%
--- Some college, no degree: 19.6%
--- Associate's degree: 10.8%
--- Bachelor's degree: 12.2%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 5.8%
- Rank among all counties: #1,748 out of 3,142

A public health survey in Coos County found that students in the area were more likely to have depression than their peers elsewhere in the state. Such issues may make it difficult for students to focus on attaining an education.

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Doug Kerr // Flickr

New Jersey: Cumberland County

- Education index score: 76.48
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 9.2%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 12.8%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 38.5%
--- Some college, no degree: 17.7%
--- Associate's degree: 7%
--- Bachelor's degree: 10.1%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 4.6%
- Rank among all counties: #2,796 out of 3,142

Cumberland County had the lowest median income in New Jersey, of $53,000 per year. This means that the county’s tax base has fewer resources to offer in terms of education, making it more difficult to invest in educational attainment for all of its citizens.

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Allen S // Wikimedia Commons

New Mexico: Luna County

- Education index score: 73.85
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 16.1%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 15.3%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 32.1%
--- Some college, no degree: 17.6%
--- Associate's degree: 6.7%
--- Bachelor's degree: 7.8%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 4.4%
- Rank among all counties: #3,091 out of 3,142

Students at Luna County schools are caught in the middle of a national debate over immigration policy. Luna County is right over the border with Mexico and has an agreement in which it will educate American citizens who live with their parents across the border in Mexico. Opponents say the schools shouldn’t pay to educate young people who live in Mexico, leaving the program’s certainty in limbo.

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TiernyMJ // Shutterstock

New York: Bronx County

- Education index score: 76.77
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 14.2%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 13.8%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 27.6%
--- Some college, no degree: 17.3%
--- Associate's degree: 7.3%
--- Bachelor's degree: 12.8%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 7%
- Rank among all counties: #2,724 out of 3,142

Bronx County’s educational woes extend far beyond the lack of degree-holding residents. The county is also last on the state’s rankings in overall wellness, lacking access to affordable housing, well-paying jobs, parks, grocery stores, and community support services, highlighting the interconnectedness of these systems.

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USDA // Flickr

North Carolina: Greene County

- Education index score: 75.08
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 10.7%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 15.2%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 32.5%
--- Some college, no degree: 21.2%
--- Associate's degree: 9.8%
--- Bachelor's degree: 8%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 2.5%
- Rank among all counties: #3,008 out of 3,142

To improve educational outcomes, districts like Greene County are focusing on what has been called the school to prison pipeline, in which students who get in trouble in high schools are fed into the state’s prison systems, missing out on their degrees, and in many cases, their futures. Greene County has been trying alternative discipline methods, aimed on teaching students and reducing poor behavior, rather than focusing simply on punishment.

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USFWS // Flickr

North Dakota: McIntosh County

- Education index score: 77.89
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 13.4%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.5%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 29.7%
--- Some college, no degree: 19.9%
--- Associate's degree: 13.7%
--- Bachelor's degree: 11.3%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 5.5%
- Rank among all counties: #2,423 out of 3,142

McIntosh County has been in such trouble educationally that the state’s governor recommended the county’s Board of Education be removed. The county has acknowledged the significant organizational and accredational failings that have led to its troubles.

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Paula R. Lively // Flickr

Ohio: Holmes County

- Education index score: 68.28
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 35.1%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.3%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 33.2%
--- Some college, no degree: 11.6%
--- Associate's degree: 3.9%
--- Bachelor's degree: 6.2%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 2.6%
- Rank among all counties: #3,141 out of 3,142

Holmes County is heavily reliant on private support for its educational programs. The Homes County Educational Foundation uses private funds to help students in the county pursue their educations, without which, many of the lucky few student recipients say, they would not have been able to go as far as they did.

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Carol Von Canon // Flickr

Oklahoma: Adair County

- Education index score: 76.01
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 5.1%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 14.6%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 45.6%
--- Some college, no degree: 18.6%
--- Associate's degree: 4.5%
--- Bachelor's degree: 8.7%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 2.8%
- Rank among all counties: #2,876 out of 3,142

Adair County is rife with poverty. The lack of a robust tax base makes it more difficult for the county to put resources into education, and the rural location makes it harder for students who wish to be educated outside the county to actually get to alternative schools in a reasonable amount of time.

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Finetooth // Wikimedia Commons

Oregon: Morrow County

- Education index score: 75.42
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 10.5%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 14.2%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 32.5%
--- Some college, no degree: 24.2%
--- Associate's degree: 7.7%
--- Bachelor's degree: 7.8%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 3.1%
- Rank among all counties: #2,964 out of 3,142

Morrow County has a significant shortage of teachers for the early education program Head Start. The county has numerous unfilled positions, and local officials are hopeful that additional state funding will enable them to serve more early students.

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Nyttend // Wikimedia Commons

Pennsylvania: Forest County

- Education index score: 75.21
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 2.9%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 14.6%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 55.6%
--- Some college, no degree: 15.9%
--- Associate's degree: 3.5%
--- Bachelor's degree: 4.9%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 2.5%
- Rank among all counties: #2,995 out of 3,142

Forest County schools suffer from a lack of students, which may make it more difficult to receive funds. The current 10th grade class in the county’s only school has just 13 students.

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Will Hart // Wikimedia Commons

Rhode Island: Providence County

- Education index score: 82.02
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 7.1%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 30.9%
--- Some college, no degree: 18.2%
--- Associate's degree: 7.7%
--- Bachelor's degree: 17%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 11.2%
- Rank among all counties: #988 out of 3,142

Providence County’s schools are in such a bad state that Rhode Island is seeking to take them over. A report found that the schools are “dysfunctional” and failing to provide quality education to the county’s 24,000 students, with crumbling buildings, chaotic classrooms, and demoralized staff.

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Upstateherd // Wikimedia Commons

South Carolina: Allendale County

- Education index score: 75.06
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 8.3%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 14%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 44%
--- Some college, no degree: 17.1%
--- Associate's degree: 7.3%
--- Bachelor's degree: 7.5%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 1.9%
- Rank among all counties: #3,014 out of 3,142

It is difficult for aspiring students in Allendale County to find a quality school. The state of South Carolina has declared a state of emergency for the public school system, and three out of four schools in the county were in the bottom percent of all schools in the state.

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Harry Weddington // Wikimedia Commons

South Dakota: Buffalo County

- Education index score: 76.10
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 4%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 16.3%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 39.8%
--- Some college, no degree: 22.5%
--- Associate's degree: 8%
--- Bachelor's degree: 8.2%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 1.2%
- Rank among all counties: #2,861 out of 3,142

It’s hard to focus on a quality education when you aren’t eating well. And such is the case in Buffalo County, which was found to have the worst food environment in the country, without access to healthy food that makes it easier to study and focus.

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Jim Denham // Flickr

Tennessee: Lake County

- Education index score: 74.11
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 10.3%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 16.1%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 43.8%
--- Some college, no degree: 15.1%
--- Associate's degree: 4.2%
--- Bachelor's degree: 6.8%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 3.6%
- Rank among all counties: #3,084 out of 3,142

Lake County is the poorest in Tennessee, with 43% of adults and 49% of children living in poverty. This means that the county has a lower tax base to draw from than it might otherwise have, making it harder to invest in education.

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25or6to4 // Wikimedia Commons

Texas: Kenedy County

- Education index score: 64.49
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 33.2%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 33.2%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 21.1%
--- Some college, no degree: 4.1%
--- Associate's degree: 1.7%
--- Bachelor's degree: 3.1%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 3.6%
- Rank among all counties: #3,142 out of 3,142

The whole environment of a community may play a role in how many of its residents attain quality educations, and the omens in Kenedy County are not auspicious. The county has been the recent site of a “significant meth seizure” and is also the site of questionable air and health quality because of oil production facilities.

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Bridget Calip // Shutterstock

Utah: Uintah County

- Education index score: 79.04
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 3%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 10.9%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 35.2%
--- Some college, no degree: 29.5%
--- Associate's degree: 6.7%
--- Bachelor's degree: 10.8%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 4%
- Rank among all counties: #2,074 out of 3,142

Investing in education begins in early childhood, and it’s hard to invest if a thief is making off with all your resources. Such has recently been the case in Uintah County, where a woman stole $145,000 from the county’s Child Justice Center over several years.

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cmh2315fl // Flickr

Vermont: Essex County

- Education index score: 78.72
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 5.4%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 8.8%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 45.5%
--- Some college, no degree: 14.6%
--- Associate's degree: 10.1%
--- Bachelor's degree: 9.4%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 6.3%
- Rank among all counties: #2,170 out of 3,142

Besides ranking last in terms of education, Essex County also fared poorly on a spate of health measures. The county was ranked the least healthy in the state, and reported the highest percentage of adults (16%) saying they were in poor health, and the highest number of adults saying they were in poor mental health—all of which would make it difficult to pursue education, or encourage a child to do the same.

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VDOT // Flickr

Virginia: Buchanan County

- Education index score: 73.86
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 13.4%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 16.3%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 36.1%
--- Some college, no degree: 17.4%
--- Associate's degree: 6.2%
--- Bachelor's degree: 6.7%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 3.9%
- Rank among all counties: #3,090 out of 3,142

Death rates from the opioid crisis were over eight times the national average in Buchanan County. The rural county has struggled not just to contain the devastating fallout from the opioid epidemic, but also to keep jobs filled in the county which leads to declining tax revenue that might be put into schools.

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Andrew Filer // Flickr

Washington: Adams County

- Education index score: 72.74
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 24.8%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 10.6%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 27.1%
--- Some college, no degree: 16.6%
--- Associate's degree: 7.3%
--- Bachelor's degree: 9.3%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 4.4%
- Rank among all counties: #3,119 out of 3,142

A serious national legal debate is taking place in Adams County and may be impacting how likely it is some parents send their children to school. Adams County has been the site of a lawsuit between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the county over ICE officers making arrests at courthouses. The level of intimidation in the practice may have effects on school attendance, making immigrant parents less likely to enter public places like schools to drop their children off.

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Coal town guy // Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia: McDowell County

- Education index score: 70.97
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 15%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 18.6%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 44.9%
--- Some college, no degree: 12.6%
--- Associate's degree: 3.5%
--- Bachelor's degree: 3%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 2.3%
- Rank among all counties: #3,135 out of 3,142

Teacher absenteeism is a significant problem in McDowell County. The county has the highest rate of teacher absenteeism in the state, with an astonishing 89% of teachers missing over 10 days of school a year.

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Jereme Rauckman // Flickr

Wisconsin: Clark County

- Education index score: 76.25
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 11.3%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.8%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 41.6%
--- Some college, no degree: 18.8%
--- Associate's degree: 10.1%
--- Bachelor's degree: 8.1%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 3.3%
- Rank among all counties: #2,832 out of 3,142

It’s hard to focus on school when you’re being shamed for not having lunch money. Such has been the case in Clark County, which was especially singled out for the practice by a group campaigning to end the practice in which they shame students who cannot pay for lunch for not being able to finance their food.

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Jimmy Emerson // Flickr

Wyoming: Niobrara County

- Education index score: 79.87
- Highest level of education attained by county residents:
--- Less than high school: 4.8%
--- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 7.1%
--- High school graduate or equivalent: 31.3%
--- Some college, no degree: 31.1%
--- Associate's degree: 9.2%
--- Bachelor's degree: 13%
--- Graduate or professional degree: 3.6%
- Rank among all counties: #1,802 out of 3,142

Niobrara has traditionally been focused on careers like ranching, which don’t require as much formal education as other careers. But a new program underwritten in part by Microsoft aims to change that, with robust computer programming classes in the county’s public schools.

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