College-Educated Americans Keep Flocking to Right to Work States


Recently-updated data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) show that adults with a bachelor’s degree or more education continue to flock to states that protect the individual employee’s freedom to get and keep a job regardless of union membership and union financial support.

State-by-state ACS data for 2005 (the earliest year for which such figures are available) and 2014 show that, over that nine-year period, all of the seven states showing the greatest percentage gains in college-educated population aged 25 and up (Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming) have Right to Work laws on the books.

But among the nine states with the smallest percentage gains in residents aged 25+ with at least a bachelor’s degree (Connecticut, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia), not one had a Right to Work law in effect prior to 2013, and only Michigan is Right to Work today.

Apologists for Big Labor and certain other analysts sometimes suggest compulsory-unionism states like Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey New York, Rhode Island and Vermont really must be doing well at attracting and retaining good jobs for their residents, because the share of their populations holding at least a bachelor’s degree is high.

But is this a reasonable conclusion to draw? Common sense suggests that there are several ways the college-educated share of a state’s adult population can rise to a level higher than the national average. And the two that are very likely the most significant pertain to domestic migration.

A state’s adult population can become more educated over time if more college-educated people move in than move out. But a state’s population can also become more educated over time if more adults who don’t have a college degree move out than move in.

As a future Institute blog post will document in detail, the key reason why forced-unionism states like Connecticut, New Hampshire, etc., have such “educated” populations is extraordinarily high net out-migration of adults who are high school educated, but haven’t completed college.

Being inhospitable to the majority of working age Americans who don’t hold a bachelor’s degree isn’t something for a state to be proud of. Moreover, as the ACS data show, it doesn’t make a state a better place to work for people who are college-educated.


From 2005 to 2014, the number of college-educated adults residing in Right to Work states soared by 30.0%, compared to the national average of just 25.2% and the forced-unionism state average of just 22.5%. Image: