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The US states with more places for incarceration than higher education

The USA has more prisons, jails, and higher rates of incarceration than any other country in the world, despite boasting one of the best education systems.

Shockingly, Studee have discovered nearly 75% of states in the US have more prisons or jails than they do colleges.

We analyzed the number of people who have a degree and compared it to the population of people incarcerated in each state. We found a strong correlation between states who have a higher proportion of people educated to degree level or above with the states who have low rates of incarceration.

The strong correlation of the data appears to suggest that if more colleges were built across the country, we could assume incarceration rates would drop, as the level of educated citizens rose.

Worst offenders:

We’ve taken a look at each state and compared the number of colleges that offer degrees to places of incarceration. Our “worst offenders” are the states that have the greatest percentage difference between the number of colleges and the number of prisons and jails.

Map of all state in the USA, those in purple have more colleges than prisons, those in orange - 75% have more prisons than colleges.

Wyoming

With just one college compared to 28 prisons and jails, there’s a staggering 2700% difference between the number of colleges that offer degrees and incarceration facilities.

  • Incarceration facilities to college rate: 2700% more jails/prisons
  • Incarceration rate per 100k: 441
  • Degree or above rate 100k: 30,494

Mississippi

Mississippi has 18 colleges and 92 prisons and jails meaning there are 411% more jails and prisons in Mississippi than there are colleges.

  • Incarceration facilities to college rate: 411% more jails/prisons
  • Incarceration rate per 100k: 626
  • Degree or above rate 100k: 23,306

Alaska

With 27 prisons or jails and just 6 colleges, Alaska has 350% more places of incarceration than it does higher education. Alaska is ranked as having the second-highest crime rate in the USA**

  • Incarceration facilities to college rate: 350% more jails/prisons
  • Incarceration rate per 100k: 263
  • Degree or above rate 100k: 31,335

Alabama

Alabama has 36 colleges but 146 jails and prisons meaning there are 306% more places of incarceration than there are institutions to get a degree.

  • Incarceration facilities to college rate: 306% more jails/prisons
  • Incarceration rate per 100k: 418
  • Degree or above rate 100k: 27,476

Louisiana

Louisiana is home to 31 colleges and 120 jails or prisons, with a difference of 287% between them it is the 4th worst state in the country. It also ranks as having one of the highest levels of crime across the states.

  • Incarceration facilities to college rate: 287% more jails/prisons
  • Incarceration rate per 100k: 695
  • Degree or above rate 100k: 26,318

Oklahoma

With 117 places of incarceration and just 31 colleges, there are 277% more jails and prisons than places where you can obtain a degree.

  • Incarceration facilities to college rate: 277% more jails/prisons
  • Incarceration rate per 100k: 693
  • Degree or above rate 100k: 27,442

Arkansas

Arkansas is home to 27 colleges and 95 jails and prisons which means there are 225% more places to get incarcerated than get a degree.

  • Incarceration facilities to college rate: 252% more jails/prisons
  • Incarceration rate per 100k: 589
  • Degree or above rate 100k: 24540

Nebraska

With the 8th biggest disparity between colleges and incarceration facilities, Nebraska has just 22 colleges where you can earn a bachelor's degree but has 73 jails or prisons 232% more.

  • Incarceration facilities to college rate: 232% more jails/prisons
  • Incarceration rate per 100k: 280
  • Degree or above rate 100k: 35054

Montana

The state of Montana has 223% more jails and prisons than colleges, with 13 institutions to earn a degree and 42 incarceration facilities.

  • Incarceration facilities to college rate: 223% more jails/prisons
  • Incarceration rate per 100k: 353
  • Degree or above rate 100k: 34,979

Kansas

Kansas has 212% more jails and prisons than universities. It’s home to 34 colleges where you can earn a bachelor's degree and 106 jails or prisons.

  • Incarceration facilities to college rate: 212% more jails/prisons
  • Incarceration rate per 100k: 342
  • Degree or above rate 100k: 35,468
States Colleges Jail/Prison % more prisons to colleges
Wyoming 1 28 2700%
Mississippi 18 92 411%
Alaska 6 27 350%
Alabama 36 146 306%
Louisiana 31 120 287%
Oklahoma 31 117 277%
Arkansas 27 95 252%
Nebraska 22 73 232%
Montana 13 42 223%
Kansas 34 106 212%
Georgia 70 217 210%
Idaho 15 46 207%
Iowa 39 105 169%
Kentucky 39 96 146%
Nevada 15 36 140%
New Mexico 17 39 129%
Texas 144 313 117%
North Carolina 73 154 111%
Tennessee 59 123 108%
Wisconsin 51 100 96%
South Dakota 17 32 88%
Missouri 74 139 88%
Colorado 44 81 84%
Indiana 60 110 83%
Minnesota 51 92 80%
North Dakota 15 27 80%
Michigan 62 108 74%
South Carolina 42 71 69%
Oregon 32 50 56%
Maryland 35 49 40%
Virginia 72 97 35%
Massachusetts 88 107 22%
Illinois 99 120 21%
Utah 24 29 21%
Ohio 116 133 15%
Washington 63 71 13%
Florida 128 143 12%
Arizona 36 36 0%
New Hampshire 17 16 -6%
Maine 22 19 -14%
West Virginia 28 24 -14%
Hawaii 10 8 -20%
Pennsylvania 134 97 -28%
Delaware 7 4 -43%
Connecticut 26 14 -46%
Rhode Island 13 7 -46%
California 280 147 -48%
Vermont 16 8 -50%
New York 239 116 -51%
New Jersey 64 28 -56%

Most educated states

The state where the most people are educated to bachelors degree level or above is Massachusetts. It has a rate of 47,143 people with a degree per 100,000 of the population. Massachusetts has 88 colleges and 107 jails and prisons, only a 21% difference.

Most incarcerated states

The state with the highest number of incarcerations is Louisiana, it has an incarceration rate of 695 per 100,000 people. Louisiana also has the 5th biggest difference between the number of colleges and the number of jails and prisons at 287%.

Most Prisons

Texas is home to the greatest number of prisons and jails across the USA. With 313 prisons it has 117% more places of incarceration than colleges.

Most universities

California has 280 colleges where you can study for a degree and is one of the only states in the USA to have more colleges than prisons and jails with only 147.

Incarceration rate “v” degree rate

We looked at official education attainment data from the census and incarceration rates from the National Institute of Corrections to see if there was a correlation between the number of people incarcerated in each state and the number of people who were educated to degree level or above.

We found a strong correlation*** between the data as demonstrated in the chart below. As can be seen by the correlation line, in the majority of states, a lower rate of education to degree level correlates with a higher incarceration rate.

A scatter diagram showing the correlation between the number of people in a state who have been educated to degree level or above and the number of people who are incarcerated in a state.

The above chart shows a strong correlation between states that have a greater number of people educated to degree level or above and a lower number of people who are incarcerated per 100k of the population. Although some states break this trend, the data suggests a strong correlation and is true across the majority of states.

Due to the strong correlation between the number of people who hold degrees and the number of people incarcerated in each state it could be concluded that promoting higher education and creating more degree offering institutions could help to reduce the number of people incarcerated.

Methodology:

The number of jails and prisons: https://nicic.gov/state-statistics/2018/wyoming-2018

The number of colleges that offer degrees: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=all&l=93+94

Educational Attainment data was used to work out the number of people per 100k were educated to degree level or above in each state. To work out the number of people with a degree per 100k we summed the population of all over 18s in each state and divided it by the number of people educated to degree level or above.

The number of prisoners per 100k was taken from https://nicic.gov/state-statistics/2018/wyoming-2018.

Spearman's Rho was used to show there was a “strong correlation” of 0.62 between the number of people who are educated to degree level and the number of people who are incarcerated.

** https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/rankings/crime-and-corrections/public-safety

*** A correlation of 0.62 - Spearman's Rho.