This is the Least Educated City in Tennessee

By Samuel Stebbins

College enrollment has declined steadily in the United States in recent years. With rising tuition costs and surging student debt, enrollment rates have fallen at an average of nearly 2% a year since 2010. While four years of higher education may not be for everyone, Americans without a bachelor’s degree tend to be far more limited in their career opportunities, job security, and earning potential.

Nationwide, an estimated 32.1% of American adults 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Educational attainment rates vary considerably across the country, however, and in nearly every state, there is at least one city where the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree is well below the national average.

Using education data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. identified the least educated city in every state.

In Tennessee, no city or town with a population of 25,000 or more has a lower bachelor’s degree attainment rate than Morristown. Only 14.9% of the adult population in Morristown have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 27.3% of adults across the state as a whole.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate among American adults with a four-year college education was 5.5% 2020. Among those with no more than a high school diploma, the jobless rate was considerably higher, at 9.0%. In Morristown, an average of 7.6% of the population between the ages of 25 and 64 were unemployed over the last five years, higher than the 4.4% jobless rate across the state over that time.

Americans with a bachelor’s degree also tend to have higher incomes. The average weekly wage for a college-educated worker in the United States is about 67% higher than it is for those with no more than a high school diploma. In cities with low educational attainment, incomes also tend to be lower than average — and Morristown is no exception. The typical household in the area earns $32,193 a year, below the median household income of $53,320 across Tennessee as a whole.

All cities, towns, villages, boroughs, and census-designated places with over 25,000 people were considered for this story. All data used are five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.