The 9 Most Educated Cities in America

October 7, 2016
Jared Kaltwasser

A new study looks at educational attainment by metropolitan region. These regions came out on top.

College—and lots of it—is essential for anyone wishing to become a dentist.

However, even for people in less specialized industries, a college education can make a huge difference.

In 2015, the median weekly income for people with only a high school diploma was $678, and the unemployment rate was 5.4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among people with a bachelor’s degree, the average weekly income nearly doubled, to $1,137. The unemployment rate for people with bachelor’s degrees was 2.8%

Among doctors (including those with medical degrees and those with PhDs), the median weekly income jumped to $1,623, and the unemployment rate fell further, to 1.78%.

In other words, educational attainment matters. A lot.

It would seem to follow, then, that areas with highly educated people would tend to be areas with more wealth. And indeed, if one were to draw circles around the country’s pharmaceutical and computer technology hubs, they would land on some of the most highly educated regions, and on some of the highest-priced real estate.

That’s the finding of a recent report by WalletHub.com, which looked at the 150 largest metropolitan areas and ranked them by educational attainment. Boston, the Silicon Valley, and North Carolina’s Research Triangle all made the Top 10, as did the Seattle area, home to Amazon and Microsoft.

What follows are the nine “most educated cities,” in America, according to WalletHub’s report. In compiling the report, WalletHub created two broad categories. The first, Educational Attainment, carried the most weight and looked at the percentage of adults with high school diplomas, some college, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate degrees. The second broad category, “Quality of Education and Attainment Gap,” looked at the quality of local schools and universities, the number of students who are accepted into top-tier universities, and the size of any race or gender gaps in educational attainment.

Educational Attainment Rank: 15

Quality of Education and Attainment Gap Rank: 12

Standout Facts: Austin, which is home to the South by Southwest technology conference, is a burgeoning tech hub deep in the heart of Texas. It’s also home to the University of Texas.

8. Provo-Orem, UT

Educational Attainment Rank: 10

Quality of Education and Attainment Gap Rank: 8

Standout Facts: Provo and Orem have the fourth-highest percentage of adults with high school diplomas and the second-highest percentage of adults with at least an associate’s degree.

7. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

Educational Attainment Rank: 8

Quality of Education and Attainment Gap Rank: 48

Standout Facts: Living at the heart of Silicon Valley will cost you. The median home price in San Francisco is now $1.1 million; the median monthly rent is a whopping $4,450.

6. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA

Educational Attainment Rank: 7

Quality of Education and Attainment Gap Rank: 17

Standout Facts: According to the Statistical Atlas, nearly 1 in 5 (19%) of Boston residents have a master’s, professional, or doctorate degree.

5. Madison, WI

Educational Attainment Rank: 4

Quality of Education and Attainment Gap Rank: 19

Standout Facts: The city, known mostly as the state capital and home to the state’s major university, has the highest percentage of high school diploma-holders of any US city.

4. Durham-Chapel Hill, NC

Educational Attainment Rank: 5

Quality of Education and Attainment Gap Rank: 2

Standout Facts: The Research Triangle Park area has the third-highest percentage of residents with a graduate or professional degree. However, it’s also got the fourth-smallest gender gap in educational attainment of any region.

3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

Educational Attainment Rank: 3

Quality of Education and Attainment Gap Rank: 3

Standout Facts: The region has the best universities of any region, according to the study. That’s thanks in large part to Stanford University, in nearby Palo Alto.

2. Washington, DC-Arlington, VA-Alexandria, VA

Educational Attainment Rank: 2

Quality of Education and Attainment Gap Rank: 26

Standout Facts: This region has the second-highest percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree and the second-highest percentage of residents with a graduate or professional degree.

1. Ann Arbor, MI

Educational Attainment Rank: 1

Quality of Education and Attainment Gap Rank: 1

Standout Facts: It may not have the same cachet as other cities, but Ann Arbor wins in a number of categories, including highest percentage of residents with associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate or professional degrees.

To view WalletHub’s full list, click here.

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