Economic Snapshot | Education

Almost two-thirds of people in the labor force do not have a college degree

Raising America's Pay

Almost two-thirds of people in the labor force (65.1 percent) do not have a college degree. In fact, people without a college degree (which includes those without a high school degree, with a high school degree, some college education, and an associates’ degrees) make up the majority of the labor force in every state but the District of Columbia. Mississippi has the highest share of non-college educated workers (75.7 percent) while Massachusetts and the District of Columbia have the lowest shares (51 percent and 33.7 percent, respectively).

Economic Snapshot

Almost two-thirds of people in the labor force do not have a college degree

Share of national labor force without a four-year college degree

Share of labor force without a Bachelor’s degree Labor force with a Bachelor’s degree or higher 
Share of labor force 65.1%  34.9%
ChartData

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Share of labor force without a four-year college degree, by state

State Share of labor force without a college degree
Alabama 71.9%
Alaska 70.1%
Arizona 69.4%
Arkansas 72.6%
California 64.6%
Colorado 58.2%
Connecticut 58.1%
Delaware 65.0%
Washington D.C. 33.7%
Florida 67.0%
Georgia 66.2%
Hawaii 68.0%
Idaho 71.0%
Illinois 61.0%
Indiana 70.3%
Iowa 69.6%
Kansas 65.2%
Kentucky 70.9%
Louisiana 72.7%
Maine 67.8%
Maryland 55.4%
Massachusetts 51.0%
Michigan 67.8%
Minnesota 64.4%
Mississippi 75.7%
Missouri 67.9%
Montana 66.8%
Nebraska 68.7%
Nevada 73.9%
New Hampshire 62.2%
New Jersey 56.1%
New Mexico 72.9%
New York 57.4%
North Carolina 67.0%
North Dakota 69.2%
Ohio 68.2%
Oklahoma 70.0%
Oregon 64.3%
Pennsylvania 65.2%
Rhode Island 64.7%
South Carolina 70.1%
South Dakota 70.9%
Tennessee 68.5%
Texas 68.5%
Utah 68.8%
Vermont 59.7%
Virginia 58.4%
Washington 62.8%
West Virginia 73.2%
Wisconsin 68.8%
Wyoming 74.5%

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It is no secret that wages for typical workers have stagnated over the past 35 years. The lagging recovery of construction and manufacturing sectors, two sectors which traditionally provide strong wages for workers without college degrees, is one reason for this wage stagnation. Trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership threaten to make the possibility of strong, middle-class jobs even more elusive for non-college educated workers.

We cannot solve the problem of low and stagnating wages for non-college educated workers by expecting everyone to pursue more education. We need solutions that will raise wages for all workers, regardless of educational attainment. These solutions include raising the minimum wage, strengthening collective bargaining rights, prioritizing very low rates of unemployment through monetary policy, and reducing our trade deficit by stopping destructive currency manipulation.


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See more work by Robert E. Scott and David Cooper