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Where Are the Highest and Lowest High School Graduation Rates in the United States?

By: U.S. Career Institute

For many people, high school graduation is an exciting achievement that marks the beginning of a young adult’s journey into making a living or experiencing the world. High school graduation rates in the U.S. have been on the rise over the past decade, reaching around 86% in the 2018-19 school year according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Of course, high school graduation rates by state vary, so the U.S. Career Institute has created a comprehensive guide to the high school graduation rates of every state and high school graduation rates by county:

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Where Are the Highest & Lowest Graduation Rates in the U.S.

What state has the highest high school graduation rate? The state with the highest high school graduation rate is Montana; an impressive 94% of adults ages 25 or older have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Here are the top 15 states with the highest high school graduation rates:
  1. Montana: 94% graduation rate
  2. Alaska: 93% graduation rate
  3. Maine: 93% graduation rate
  4. Minnesota: 93% graduation rate
  5. New Hampshire: 93% graduation rate
  6. North Dakota: 93% graduation rate
  7. Vermont: 93% graduation rate
  8. Wyoming: 93% graduation rate
  9. Colorado: 92% graduation rate
  10. Hawaii: 92% graduation rate
  11. Iowa: 92% graduation rate
  12. South Dakota: 92% graduation rate
  13. Utah: 92% graduation rate
  14. Wisconsin: 92% graduation rate
  15. Connecticut: 91% graduation rate

What state has the lowest high school graduation rate? Surprisingly, that would be California, with an 83% high school graduation rate.

Here are the 15 states with the lowest high school graduation rates:
  1. California: 83% graduation rate
  2. Texas: 84% graduation rate
  3. Mississippi: 85% graduation rate
  4. Louisiana: 85% graduation rate
  5. New Mexico: 86% graduation rate
  6. Kentucky: 86% graduation rate
  7. Alabama: 86% graduation rate
  8. West Virginia 87% graduation rate
  9. Tennessee: 87% graduation rate
  10. New York: 87% graduation rate
  11. Nevada: 87% graduation rate
  12. Georgia: 87% graduation rate
  13. Arkansas: 87% graduation rate
  14. Arizona: 87% graduation rate
  15. South Carolina: 88% graduation rate

Fortunately, these states are not far off from the average high school graduation rate in America.


To further understand the education climate of the United States, let’s examine the data on a more detailed level. By exploring high school graduation rates by county, we can get a stronger grasp on what counties are thriving and what counties may need additional attention. Here are the counties with the highest high school graduation rates with populations of 500,000 or more:

  1. Allegheny, PA: 95% graduation rate
  2. Oakland, MI: 94% graduation rate
  3. Collin, TX: 94% graduation rate
  4. Montgomery, PA: 94% graduation rate
  5. King, WA: 93% graduation rate
  6. Middlesex, MA: 93% graduation rate
  7. Hennepin, MN: 93% graduation rate
  8. Wake, NC: 93% graduation rate
  9. Fulton, GA: 93% graduation rate
  10. St. Louis, MO: 93% graduation rate

The extra-large county with the highest graduation rate is Allegheny, Pennsylvania, with a graduation rate of 95%, but the smaller counties deserve recognition, too. The large county with the highest graduation rate is Douglas, Colorado, at 98%; the mid-sized county with the highest rate is Park, Colorado, at 98%; and the small county with the best rate is Falls Church City, Virginia, at 99%. Now, let’s examine the counties that are struggling with graduation rates. On the infographic, we have it broken down by county size, but here, we’ll combine the lists because there is more variation in numbers. Here are the counties with the lowest high school graduation rates:

  1. Kenedy, TX: 26% graduation rate
  2. Presidio, TX: 53% graduation rate
  3. Starr, TX: 53% graduation rate
  4. Hudspeth, TX: 56% graduation rate
  5. Holmes, OH: 57% graduation rate
  6. Maverick, TX: 60% graduation rate
  7. Clark, ID: 60% graduation rate
  8. Issaquena, MS: 61% graduation rate
  9. Zapata, TX: 62% graduation rate
  10. Lagrange, IN: 62% graduation rate

What county has the lowest high school graduation rate out of those with large populations? That would be the Bronx, with a high school graduation rate of 73%. Fortunately, graduation rates in New York City experienced an uptick in 2020.

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