California ranks first among the states in the percentage of residents over 25 who have never finished the ninth grade— 9.7 percent of California residents, or about 4 million Californians. It also rates 49th in the number of state residents who never graduated from high school — or about 18 percent of the current population.
In other words, about 7 million Californians do not possess a high-school diploma, about equal to the size of the nine counties of California’s Bay Area, roughly from Napa to Silicon Valley. In some sense, inside California, there is a shadow state consisting of high-school dropouts that’s larger than 38 other U.S. states.
Yet California also is home to some of the most highly educated municipalities in the United States. In fact, Palo Alto claims that 40 percent of its city population has an M.A, degree or higher, making it No. 1 among American cities with a population above 50,000.
In the same ranking of wealthiest communities, two other California municipalities, nearby Cupertino and Mountain View, were also in the top ten. How can a single state be calibrated as both so educated and so uneducated?