NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- You've likely heard about the importance of education from the moment the message was able to register in your brain. Parents, teachers and others all told you that a proper education is the key to a successful future. And it appears that the message was received more openly in some U.S. states than others.

A look at federal education data offers a snapshot of the state of education in this country. The average SAT score, for example, was 1,498 out of 2,400 in 2011-12, compared to 1,008 out of 1,600 in 1986-87, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The SAT added the Critical Reading portion of the exam in the 2005-06 academic year.

The status dropout rate, which represents the percentage of people ages 16 to 24 who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school diploma or equivalency credential such as a GED, declined to 7% in 2012 from 12% in 1990. Much of the drop occurred after 2000, when the rate was 11%.

Those who do stay in school and graduate high school are heading straight to college in increasing numbers. The immediate college enrollment rate, the annual percentage of high school graduates and GED recipients who enroll in two-year or four-year colleges in the fall immediately after finishing high school, rose to 66% in 2012 from 60% in 1990%.

In 2006, the graduation rate for students obtaining a bachelor's degree in college was 59%. The NCES defines this rate as the percentage of "first-time, full-time students who began seeking a bachelor's degree at a 4-year institution" and "completed the degree at that institution within 6 years."

Federal data also shows that education tangibly affects employment status. In 2013, the unemployment rate for young adults was 29.2% for those who didn't finish high school, 17.5% for those who did finish high school or had an equivalent degree but had no college education, 12.2% for those with some college education and 7% for those with at least a bachelor's degree.

To determine the least educated states in America, we looked at data compiled by Bloomberg, which tabulated the percentage of residents in each state and the District of Columbia with a bachelor's degree or graduate/professional degree. Based on this data, here are the 10 least educated states in America...

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10) Oklahoma

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's Degree: 16%

Percentage of Residents with Graduate/Professional Degree: 7.8%

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's or Graduate/Professional Degree: 23.8%

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9) Tennessee

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's Degree: 15.3%

Percentage of Residents with Graduate/Professional Degree: 8.3%

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's or Graduate/Professional Degree: 23.6%

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8) Indiana

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's Degree: 14.8%

Percentage of Residents with Graduate/Professional Degree: 8.2%

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's or Graduate/Professional Degree: 23%

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7) Nevada

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's Degree: 14.9%

Percentage of Residents with Graduate/Professional Degree: 7.6%

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's or Graduate/Professional Degree: 22.5%

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6) Alabama

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Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's Degree: 13.9%

Percentage of Residents with Graduate/Professional Degree: 8.4%

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's or Graduate/Professional Degree: 22.3%

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5) (tied for 4th) Kentucky

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's Degree: 12.3%

Percentage of Residents with Graduate/Professional Degree: 8.8%

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's or Graduate/Professional Degree: 21.1%

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4) (tied for 4th) Louisiana

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's Degree: 14%

Percentage of Residents with Graduate/Professional Degree: 7.1%

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's or Graduate/Professional Degree: 21.1%

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3) Arkansas

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's Degree: 13.1%

Percentage of Residents with Graduate/Professional Degree: 7.2%

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's or Graduate/Professional Degree: 20.3%

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2) Mississippi

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's Degree: 12.6%

Percentage of Residents with Graduate/Professional Degree: 7.3%

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's or Graduate/Professional Degree: 19.9%

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1) West Virginia

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's Degree: 11.7%

Percentage of Residents with Graduate/Professional Degree: 6.8%

Percentage of Residents with Bachelor's or Graduate/Professional Degree: 18.5%

West Virginia tops the list of least educated states in America. It is also the only entry with less than 12% in the bachelor's degree category and less than 7% in the graduate/professional degree category.