Badlands, you got to live it every day

Who knew the Real Murkins from North Dakota loved book-lurnin’ from librul perfessors so much?


About 52 percent of Massachusetts residents had at least an associate degree in 2012, the highest proportion in the nation. Minnesota comes in second, with New York and North Dakota close behind.


Minnesota and North Dakota are perennial overachievers, Matthews says. “It is by all accounts cultural,” he said. “These communities have traditionally placed a huge value on education, stressed education. And so this has always been the case.” Both states have strong high school graduation rates, high confidence in public schools in the state, and high college-going rates for high school graduates.

Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa had the highest proportion of residents saying K-12 education was “excellent” or “good.” North Dakota is pouring money from the natural gas boom into its state higher education system. All three states also have strong economies — they rank in the top 10 nationally on Gallup’s job creation index — and relatively low unemployment rates, factors that lure educated young workers from elsewhere.

I thought wingers considered North Dakota to be paradise. Maybe this doesn’t class with that idea so much anyway. As I’ve said before, I think many observers overstate conservative hostility to education. Yes, there’s some trepidation about evolution etc. and the real crazies want nutty stuff in the history books, but in Georgia — another undeniable part of real America, outside of Athens and Atlanta — Republican David Perdue hasn’t been hurt by his (even to my ears, quite impolitic) comments about one of his opponents being a “high-school graduate”.

27 replies
  1. 1
    yoohoocthulhu says:

    All the kids really are above average.

  2. 2
    BGinCHI says:

    Wonder what the percentage of young people who have higher ed degrees leave ND?

    The brains are obviously draining somehow.

  3. 3
    evolved beyond the fist mistermix says:

    North Dakota has a state income tax and the only state-owned bank in the nation. Socialism!

  4. 4
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    South Dakota is the wingnut paradise.

  5. 5
    CASLondon says:

    It’s the Nordic tradition at work, a Scandinavia equality public ethos in MN WI and ND


  6. 6
    bemused says:


    We live in rural/small town MN. Our 3 kids all graduated from high school here and went on to various universities, each achieving two degrees in their fields. Only one lives and works in the state, Minneapolis and the other two live and work in other states. Rural counties have a big drain of kids leaving because the jobs just aren’t there.

  7. 7
    Fred Fnord says:

    Now that California is systematically dismantling all of its affordable colleges, look for it to become 50th out of 50 in this metric, too. Yay us!

  8. 8
    BGinCHI says:

    @bemused: It’s worse I expect in ND as there are no cities. Unless you count Winnipeg.

  9. 9
    C.S. says:

    How much of this can be explained by the fact that the population of the whole state of North Dakota is roughly equivalent to (and probably smaller than) the population of Charlotte, North Carolina?

    A pretty small absolute number of college graduates could affect the state average considerably, I would think.

  10. 10
    bemused says:


    Probably so. It’s been awhile but driving East to West through ND is one long, long, barren drive.

  11. 11
    StringOnAStick says:

    Anyone considered the idea that perhaps the desire for a degree is so high precisely because the students want out of ND and SD?

  12. 12
    RaflW says:

    @BGinCHI: Fargo has grown 16.5% in the last decennial census. Moorhead, across the river in MN has grown over 18% and West Fargo grew an impressive 73% to 26,000 souls.

    So actually there are folks moving to N.D.’s biggest city. Fracking and the plains energy boom is certainly part of that. Rural drain is another part.

    I had to do a few biz trips to Fargo in the late 90’s early aughts. I wouldn’t want to live there, but then, I live in a 23 story highrise a one mile walk from our symphony hall, a YWCA, and 1/2 mile from 2 nice grocery stores (one is a coop). I’m a big city guy. I love Minneapolis (and St. Paul!).

    But clearly some folks like the N.D. life – their estimated 2013 MSA population was 223,000. I’m surprised to learn its in the top 200 metro areas in the US by size.

    I have no idea why I wanted to look all that up. Except to say that flyover country is not really like what coastal elites often think it is.

  13. 13
    BGinCHI says:

    @RaflW: I’m from the rural midwest. I’m pretty sure I get it.

  14. 14
    srv says:

    @RaflW: So would their ranking be a bit lower pre-frackamania? Have kinda wondered if the average fracker is a bit higher in the IQ than the regular drilling monkeys. Have met offshore folks who were veritable rocket scientists and read books and some such.

    The weird thing about states like Iowa and all is that few leave them. Oh, maybe they go to MSP or Omaha, but every cousin who went to Chicago has gone back home.

    Great places for summer weddings or reunions, but not gonna live there.

  15. 15
    nodakfarmboy says:

    North Dakotan here, with two degrees of my own, all three siblings with (or close to completely degrees) and the vast majority of my cousins have undergraduate degrees, almost all obtained from in-state schools. North Dakota may have its issues, but we have a solid, albeit unspectacular, system of colleges and universities all across the state. Honestly, we have way too many for a state this size. And you can throw in a few private religious colleges, too. But, the Norwegians and Germans who founded things around here aspired to greater things, and saw establishing colleges as a way to show that they were going to be something more than just a vast, unbroken series of wheat fields. They even put the colleges into the state constitution, which means (as constitutional entities) we can’t close them, which has left us with some four year state institutions in odd places.

    For a long time, our success at educating our children led to an odd situation where we were overeducating ourselves for the economy we possessed. As the saying went, North Dakota’s two major exports were “wheat and educated kids.” Even young people who wanted to stay found out that the very values they’d been instilled with here (get a degree!) led to them having skills and talents they had to take elsewhere to put to work. So, they’d head to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, etc. That said, things are starting to change. There’s work here, and the economy is more diverse. We’ve moved beyond our past as an archipelago of towns scattered in a sea of farmland, to a more urbanized, diversified future. Over half the population lives in four cities now, and that percentage will continue to rise. And then there’s the oil… warts and all, driving massive budget surpluses and investment in the state.

    We’ve got a lot of challenges. This state may be backwards at times and leave a lot to be desired, but our embrace of public education as a societal good isn’t one of them.

  16. 16
    justawriter says:

    I don’t have much to add to what NoDakFarmBoy said, except to add a little historical context. For the first 80 years of its existance, North Dakota was so Republican that even the Communists ran their candidates in the Republican Primary. That’s how the socialist-populist Non Partisan League got power in the state in the 1920s. Even the conservative Republicans were more Eisenhower types than McCarthy, stressing competence over ideology. The NPL merged with the Democrats in 1960 and we finally had a two party state for the next 30 years. But since 92, the big energy types have coopted the Sagebrush Rebellion spirit and more and more stark raving loonies have been elected to the legislature. The sane Republicans used to be able to work with the Democratic minority to blunt the worst of the loony right, but their numbers are getting thinner as well.

  17. 17
    AnonPhenom says:

    Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa had the highest proportion of residents saying K-12 education was “excellent” or “good.”

    “excellent” or “good” = just us God-fearin’ white folk.

  18. 18
    DougJ says:


    Great comment!

  19. 19
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    “It is by all accounts cultural,” he said. “These communities have traditionally placed a huge value on education, stressed education. And so this has always been the case.”

    As with their Scando forbears, if it’s winter nine months of the year you’ve got to keep yourself amused somehow. (And Germans, of course, looking back to the big push for education as a force for national greatness in the old country.)

  20. 20
    El Caganer says:

    @evolved beyond the fist mistermix: And if I’m not mistaken, the state-owned bank makes low-interest student loans.

  21. 21
    Roger Moore says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    As with their Scando forbears, if it’s winter nine months of the year you’ve got to keep yourself amused somehow.

    I thought that was what sex and alcohol were for.

  22. 22
    Citizen_X says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: South Dakota is where the Badlands are, too.

  23. 23
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Roger Moore: That too.

  24. 24
    DougJ says:


    There’s badlands in ND too.

  25. 25
    Sir Laffs-a-Lot says:

    Born in SD; live in MN. Both states have identical ethnic and cultural backrounds; one thrives the other is the Alabama of the Midwest. One difference was MN decided 60 years ago to put significant $$$$ into all levels of education and make sure the kids graduated. Also built up the economy from one heavily dependent on farming, grain milling, iron ore mining and timber to a diversified technological economy. The winters are long and the mosquitos are huge; but life tends to be above average:)

    taxes work, bitches!!

  26. 26
    andy says:

    @Sir Laffs-a-Lot: We are so lucky we had Governor Dayton watching our backs until both houses flipped back to the DFL. He won by a whisker when he ran for Governor- and good thing too, because if the MN GOP had had both houses and the governorship we would be living the same horrorshow as Wisconsin, Indiana, Maine, etc.

    Now, the right people are finally paying their fair share in taxes, the budget is balanced, the schools paid back, we got money to fix things that need fixing, and enough left over for a rainy day fund. The best part is watching those GOP shitbags having to stand by and fume while the DFL cleans up after them, and shows them what governing really looks like!

  27. 27
    mac007 says:

    @Sir Laffs-a-Lot: Exactly. I live in the MSP metro. Minnesota is a high-tax state, but I’ve always thought we got a lot of value for the money. I have several excellent walking and biking trails a stone’s throw from my house. There are many leisure options, such as theater, music and professional sporting events. Our top-notch educational system means businesses can thrive and provide good, well-paying jobs, because of the availability of well-educated people. We expanded Medicare for our most vulnerable citizens, and just passed one of the largest minimum wage increases in the country. Sure, we have our problems (the one immediately coming to mind is the opportunity gap between whites and people of color), but, IMHO, Minnesota shows that providing excellent value for tax dollars can really drive a high quality of life. If the Republicans in this state had their way, we’d just be a snowy Mississippi.

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