Most & Least Educated Cities in America
Cities want to attract highly educated workers to fuel their economic growth and tax revenues. Higher levels of education tend to lead to higher salaries. And the more that graduates earn, the more tax dollars they contribute over time, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In turn, educated people want to live somewhere where they will get a good return on their educational investment. People also tend to marry others of the same educational level. Already having a large educated population may be a good way to draw in even more people with degrees.
Not all highly educated people will flock to the same areas, though. Some may prefer to have many people with similar education levels around them for socializing and career connections. Others may want to be a big fish in a little pond. Not every city will provide the same quality of life to those with higher education, either.
To determine where the most educated Americans are putting their degrees to work, WalletHub compared the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, across 11 key metrics. Our data set ranges from share of adults aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher to quality of the public school system to gender education gap. Read on for our findings, expert insight from a panel of researchers and a full description of our methodology.
Most Educated Cities
‘Educational Attainment’ Rank
‘Quality of Education & Attainment Gap’ Rank
|1||Ann Arbor, MI||94.02||1||5|
|2||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||82.29||4||3|
|4||Durham-Chapel Hill, NC||79.11||7||10|
|6||San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||78.59||6||21|
|9||Austin-Round Rock, TX||72.97||16||2|
|12||Colorado Springs, CO||71.02||12||31|
|17||Portland-South Portland, ME||67.78||19||40|
|19||Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI||66.82||15||117|
|20||San Diego-Carlsbad, CA||66.46||26||4|
|22||Lansing-East Lansing, MI||65.51||23||45|
|24||Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT||64.42||22||104|
|26||New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||62.56||29||20|
|27||Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA||61.81||30||36|
|28||Urban Honolulu, HI||61.68||43||8|
|33||Kansas City, MO-KS||59.84||28||103|
|35||Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA||59.14||32||91|
|36||Salt Lake City, UT||59.11||40||47|
|37||St. Louis, MO-IL||59.01||37||102|
|39||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||58.77||53||17|
|40||Santa Rosa, CA||58.58||44||68|
|41||New Haven-Milford, CT||58.46||31||129|
|44||Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA||58.20||34||115|
|48||Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL||57.36||55||50|
|50||Charleston-North Charleston, SC||56.58||47||112|
|51||Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA||56.39||58||58|
|54||Boise City, ID||55.96||64||33|
|58||Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY||55.43||49||126|
|59||Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI||55.18||46||137|
|60||Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA||55.09||77||9|
|62||Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI||54.80||66||59|
|65||Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||53.80||71||57|
|69||Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL||53.15||69||90|
|71||Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||52.90||75||54|
|76||Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR||52.16||79||69|
|79||North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL||51.87||59||142|
|80||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL||51.16||95||12|
|84||Oklahoma City, OK||50.48||86||67|
|88||Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL||50.07||90||53|
|90||Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||49.48||94||42|
|92||Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||49.24||99||25|
|94||Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN||48.60||89||105|
|97||Greensboro-High Point, NC||48.50||105||18|
|99||Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL||48.05||91||110|
|103||New Orleans-Metairie, LA||46.94||102||72|
|104||Fort Wayne, IN||46.80||103||61|
|106||San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX||46.46||112||24|
|107||Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC||46.09||114||23|
|108||Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL||45.15||110||87|
|112||Baton Rouge, LA||43.90||113||85|
|115||Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL||42.60||96||148|
|120||Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV||40.60||127||28|
|122||Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC||40.32||121||127|
|125||Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL||39.38||118||141|
|129||Shreveport-Bossier City, LA||38.14||128||95|
|130||Port St. Lucie, FL||38.12||120||146|
|136||El Paso, TX||33.07||140||15|
|137||Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||32.66||136||82|
|138||Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL||31.51||138||56|
|139||Corpus Christi, TX||30.17||137||123|
|140||Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX||29.80||141||83|
Note: For readability purposes, the above chart displays only 50 metro areas from a total sample of 150.
Research shows that a skilled and educated workforce provides a significant boost to the economy. For strategies aimed at increasing a city’s brainpower and the best approaches to educational development, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- Should local authorities target policies and programs to attract highly educated people? If so, what works?
- Are highly educated cities better able to withstand economic shocks?
- In your opinion, what is the most important step we can take as a country to develop a more educated and skilled workforce?
- Will the Trump administration’s proposed education budget cuts — to student loans, after-school programs and teacher training, for instance — increase or decrease the level of education inequality among cities?
- How can the U.S. reform its immigration policy in order to attract and retain highly educated workers from abroad?
To identify the most and least educated cities in America, WalletHub compared the 150 most populated U.S. metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, across two key dimensions, including “Educational Attainment” and “Quality of Education & Attainment Gap.”
We evaluated those dimensions using 11 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the highest educational attainment and quality of education. For metrics marked with two asterisks (**), we used the square root of the population to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
Finally, we determined each metro area’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Educational Attainment - Total Points: 80
- Share of Adults Aged 25 Years & Older with a High School Diploma or Higher: Full Weight (~20.00 Points)
- Share of Adults Aged 25 Years & Older with at Least Some College Experience or an Associate's Degree or Higher: Full Weight (~20.00 Points)
- Share of Adults Aged 25 Years & Older with a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: Full Weight (~20.00 Points)
- Share of Adults Aged 25 Years & Older with a Graduate or Professional Degree: Full Weight (~20.00 Points)
Quality of Education & Attainment Gap - Total Points: 20
- Quality of Public School System: Double Weight (~4.44 Points)
Note: This metric is based on GreatSchools.org’s ratings of U.S. public schools.
- Average Quality of Universities: Double Weight (~4.44 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub “College & University” rankings Report.
- Enrolled Students in Top 951 Universities per Capita: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub “College & University” rankings Report.
- Number of Summer Learning Opportunities per Capita**: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
- Racial Education Gap*: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
Note: This metric specifically measures the difference between the percentage of black bachelor’s degree holders and the percentage of their white counterparts.
- Gender Education Gap*: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
Note: This metric specifically measures the difference between the percentage of female bachelor’s degree holders and the percentage of their male counterparts.
- Education Equality Index Score: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
Note: The Education Equality Index (EEI) is a comparative measure of the achievement gap between students from low-income families, as measured by participation in the free and reduced price lunch program, and their more advantaged peers. The EEI compares the proportion of students from low-income families who are proficient on a state assessment to all students across the state who took that same grade or subject level assessment.
*Additional context: In metro areas where women have an advantage over men and blacks have an advantage over whites, we gave extra credit compared to the metro areas with no gender-based/racial inequality.
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Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, GreatSchools.org, Education Cities.org, Yelp and WalletHub research.
Image: Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com
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