Which States Offer the Best Education Quality?

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.

quote attributed to Albert Einstein

Eric Hanushek is a professor at Stanford University. He wrote chapter #16 on education quality and economic growth in the book titled “The 4% Solution”.  Eric’s thesis is an economy’s ability to grow (i.e. innovate, improve productivity, raise incomes) is strongly tied to the quality of education provided to its residents. He worked with Dennis Kimbo to analyze the driving reasons behind the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development world ranking of the U.S. on student achievement. Their analyses confirmed the importance of STEM to overall economic growth. In his overview of their findings, Eric asserts “It appears unlikely the U.S. will continue to dominate other countries in innovation and human capital unless it can improve the quality of education it offers students.”

If you research education quality role in site selection, you’ll find innumerable citations supporting its importance as a discriminating criteria between location options. Business leaders need access to an educated and skilled labor pool. I am not going to dwell on this point because it is so universally accepted. But, I will recommend Business Facilities article entitled Strategic drivers Motivating Headquarters Relocations as a quick read.

So if education quality is so important, where is education quality judged to be outstanding? There is any number of traditional metrics like level of education attained that you could use to rank locations. But, I want to share a unique data set that provides insight into the question.  Xavier University’s research into the American Dream looks at education quality (extent to which schools are good and promote originality) as one of thirty-five dimensions that make up the American Dream.  The data offer a look at how the people actually living in the location perceive education quality.

I have only provided states where residents have a perception for the dimension that is statistically significantly above or below national average.  Note, with all perceptual data the next step (particularly for below national average situations) is to assess if the perception is based in reality or misunderstanding.  This often requires the use of secondary data or supplemental market research to determine the answer.  But, knowing the answer is important before action planning because if the low score is due to misperception the solution is education not a new policy or program.

Remember, the data represents how residents in the specific state perceive dimension performance.  It is not somebody on the outside offering an opinion.  Consequently, even if you do not like the results it is important to understand why your residents perceive dimension performance as they do.

The Data

I’d like to offer special thanks to the Xavier University team for allowing me to share these data with you.

Above National Average

Hawaii (index 116)

Washington (index 110)

Illinois (index 106)

Oregon (index 105)

Texas (index 105)

New Jersey (index 104)

California (index 104)

Indiana (index 104)

Minnesota (index 104)

Michigan (index 103)

Below National Average

Florida (index 97)

Wisconsin (index 95)

Iowa (index 94)

New York (index 93)

Pennsylvania (index 92)

Virginia (index 91)

West Virginia (index 90)

New Hampshire (index 87)


If you are looking to live in a state where your children can get a high quality education, then you might check out one of the states from the above national average list.

If you are a business owner or CEO trying to decide between site locations in multiple states, then you might want to factor these data into your consideration.

If you are an elected official or economic development professional from a state on the below average list, you may want to run supplemental research to try and determine the barriers might be to your residents feeling like their children (or they) can obtain a quality education.

Where is it easiest to achieve the American Dream?

Check out the Site Selection article that ranks all states and major MSAs based on the degree to which their residents perceive they are achieving their American Dream.  You will be able to see the performing states/MSAs for each dimension of the American Dream and overall.  Special thanks to Site Selection Magazine for their continuing support in helping bring these data to economic development professionals, elected officials and anybody else with an interest in better understanding the American Dream.

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