Three county locales listed among America’s least educated towns

Farmersville, East Porterville and Lindsay make list for low educational attainment, high unemployment

TULARE COUNTY – Education has always been difficult in Tulare County, where one quarter of the population speaks another language besides English, 20% of the population are from countries without the guarantee of secondary education, and 20% of the population lives in poverty.

Given those statistics, and after years of being reminded of it, it’s no shock Tulare County once again appeared on a list of the least educated places in America. Normally the list refers to the Visalia-Porterville metropolitan statistical area, which is essentially all of Tulare County, but a recent list provided a clearer look at the local places within Tulare County where more education is needed most.

Tulare County was home to three of the 50 “Least Educated Towns” in America compiled by 24/7 Wall St., an independent financial news and opinion website known for its well-researched listicles. Towns were defined as places, either incorporated or unincorporated, with more than 1,000 but less than 25,000 people, of which there 13,332.

Towns were excluded if bachelor’s degree or higher attainment rates were not available, if the town’s 25 and older population was less than 1,000, or if the sampling error associated with a town’s data was deemed too high. The remaining 10,738 places were then ranked based on the percent of adults, at least 25 years and older, with at least a bachelor’s degree and then weighted for other factors including the percent of adults with a high school diploma or equivalent, the median household income and estimated unemployment rate based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, a five-year estimate of demographics in all cities and census designated places, or towns. The latest survey data was from 2019.

Farmersville had the unfortunate designation of being the highest Tulare County town on the list, ranking as the 19th least educated place overall. Just 3.3% of adults had at least a bachelor’s degree and less than 60% had a high school diploma, the 93rd lowest on the list of 10,738 towns. Nationwide, nearly one-third of American adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher and 88% of adults have a high school diploma. Education is one of the strongest predictors of a employment and earning, which means towns with low educational attainment often have high unemployment rates and low-end household income. The average weekly wage for a college-educated worker is two-thirds higher than it is for those with a high school diploma. The city of just over 10,000 people had an unemployment rate of 12.5% and a median household income of $39,720. Nationwide, the unemployment rate was hovering at about 3.5% in 2019 and the median household income was $62,843.

The next Tulare County town on the list was East Porterville, at No. 36. Only 3.7% of its adults had at least a bachelor’s degree and 46.5% had a high school diploma, the 21st lowest of all 10,738 towns. The town of about 6,200 people also had the 29th highest unemployment rate at 22.4% and the median household income was just $27,974. East Porterville made national headlines when the town’s wells went dry during the 2014-17 drought.

The third local town on the list was Lindsay, ranked No. 41. Just 3.9% of adults in Lindsay have a bachelor’s degree or higher and only 46.7% had a high school diploma, 22nd fewest of 10,738 towns. The city of 13,300 people had one of the highest unemployment rates of Valley towns on the list at 16%. The median household income is $31,489.

Kern County was home to three cities on the list—Arvin (No. 6), Lamont (No. 11) and McFarland (No. 22)—while Kings County had two—Avenal (No. 16) and Corcoran (No. 28).

The least educated town in America was Cactus, Texas, a town with a population of about 3,200 in the northern part of the state 54 miles north of Amarillo. In California, the distinction went to Calipatria, a town of about 7,400 people near the Salton Sea. For the list on America’s Least Educated Towns, visit 247wallst.com/economy/2021/08/25/cactus-texas-is-americas-least-educated-town.

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