Nebraska near top of list of ‘most educated’ state legislatures

Stateline Midwest Vol. 20, No. 9: September 2011

How educated are state legislators compared to the citizens they represent? That was the question The Chronicle of Higher Education set out to answer this summer by examining the educational backgrounds of the nation’s 7,000-plus state legislators. It found significant variations among the different legislatures, but at least one commonality: A state’s elected officials are much more likely to have college degrees than the general public. Nationally, 75 percent of legislators have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to about 30 percent of all Americans.

Here are some findings for the Midwest:

  • The region’s smallest legislative body is its most educated. In Nebraska’s 49-person Unicameral Legislature, 87 percent of members have a bachelor’s degree or higher (third-highest in the nation). Five other Midwestern states have rates higher than the national average: Illinois, 81.9 percent; Minnesota, 83.9 percent; Ohio, 80.3 percent; and Wisconsin, 77.5 percent.
  • South Dakota has the region’s lowest percentage of legislators with bachelor’s degrees (60.9 percent). Indiana (73.4 percent), Iowa (71.3 percent), Kansas (68.6 percent), Michigan (72.9 percent) and North Dakota (68.9 percent) also fall below the U.S. average.