Clinical status was assessed in 385 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, according to erythrocyte sedimentation rate, joint count, grip strength, walking time, and other quantitative measures. All measures indicated substantially poorer clinical status in patients who did not complete high school, compared with those who had completed high school. In general, the poorest results were seen in patients with only a grade school education. Progressively better results were seen in patients with some high school education, high school graduates, and patients with some college education. No differences in clinical status were seen among patients who had attended college, graduated from college, or had postgraduate education. Although patients seen at the Veterans Administration Medical Center had lower levels of formal education than those seen at a university clinic and private practices, trends in clinical status according to formal education level were similar in all three clinical settings. Differences in clinical status according to formal education level are not explained by age, sex, duration of disease, clinical setting, or multiple comparisons. Formal education level may identify an important marker of clinical status in rheumatoid arthritis.