2018’s Most & Least Educated Cities in America

Jul 24, 2018  |  Adam McCann, Financial Writer

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.

Main Findings

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Most Educated Cities

Overall Rank
(1 = Most Educated)
MSA Total Score ‘Educational Attainment’ Rank ‘Quality of Education & Attainment Gap’ Rank
1 Ann Arbor, MI 92.57 1 3
2 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 77.39 2 36
3 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 75.14 3 6
4 Durham-Chapel Hill, NC 72.77 5 12
5 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 71.07 7 21
6 Madison, WI 69.47 4 109
7 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 67.71 6 114
8 Austin-Round Rock, TX 66.14 15 5
9 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 66.13 10 22
10 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 65.94 8 140
11 Provo-Orem, UT 64.85 11 83
12 Colorado Springs, CO 63.63 12 79
13 Raleigh, NC 63.53 9 136
14 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 62.41 14 99
15 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 62.07 17 42
16 Tallahassee, FL 61.91 20 24
17 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 61.75 13 123
18 Trenton, NJ 61.37 16 103
19 Portland-South Portland, ME 61.27 18 64
20 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 60.68 28 2
21 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 59.23 19 107
22 Lansing-East Lansing, MI 59.05 23 84
23 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 58.77 31 7
24 Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 58.72 21 112
25 Huntsville, AL 58.05 24 61
26 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 57.95 22 117
27 Urban Honolulu, HI 57.66 38 4
28 Anchorage, AK 57.03 32 23
29 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 56.87 36 13
30 Asheville, NC 55.35 53 8
31 Lexington-Fayette, KY 55.32 29 88
32 Kansas City, MO-KS 55.28 27 102
33 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 54.84 35 55
34 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA 54.83 30 95
35 Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA 54.81 26 120
36 Santa Rosa, CA 54.80 42 46
37 Pittsburgh, PA 54.19 47 26
38 Eugene, OR 53.51 50 48
39 St. Louis, MO-IL 53.41 34 100
40 Salt Lake City, UT 53.39 41 91
41 Rochester, NY 53.36 33 125
42 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 53.26 39 94
43 Richmond, VA 53.02 45 70
44 New Haven-Milford, CT 52.98 37 119
45 Boise City, ID 52.94 56 31
46 Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA 52.70 54 56
47 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 52.54 55 51
48 Manchester-Nashua, NH 52.39 25 147
49 Worcester, MA-CT 52.37 52 73
50 Albuquerque, NM 52.23 57 47
51 Columbus, OH 52.12 40 118
52 Charleston-North Charleston, SC 52.10 44 115
53 Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA 51.94 48 87
54 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 51.50 63 33
55 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 51.25 43 128
56 Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL 50.89 61 62
57 Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 50.39 66 63
58 Savannah, GA 50.35 64 75
59 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 50.23 49 127
60 Springfield, MA 50.16 71 43
61 Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN 49.86 65 78
62 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 49.86 62 86
63 Reno, NV 49.69 81 18
64 Syracuse, NY 49.64 58 132
65 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 49.48 70 58
66 Tucson, AZ 49.35 51 134
67 Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR 49.09 80 28
68 Oklahoma City, OK 49.06 85 17
69 Columbia, SC 49.02 59 130
70 Dayton, OH 48.99 72 76
71 Ogden-Clearfield, UT 48.90 46 150
72 Jackson, MS 48.66 79 49
73 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 48.60 67 108
74 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 48.39 78 59
75 Jacksonville, FL 48.34 76 68
76 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 48.19 69 106
77 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 48.14 77 67
78 Akron, OH 48.12 75 90
79 Wichita, KS 47.97 74 97
80 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 47.95 83 45
81 Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA 47.77 86 38
82 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 47.05 96 9
83 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 47.04 68 137
84 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 47.01 60 142
85 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 46.65 73 124
86 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 46.42 88 52
87 Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA 46.40 84 93
88 Peoria, IL 46.31 82 122
89 Fayetteville, NC 46.30 98 15
90 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 46.16 87 82
91 Springfield, MO 46.08 92 54
92 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 45.65 95 32
93 Fort Wayne, IN 45.07 97 39
94 Montgomery, AL 44.88 106 20
95 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 44.68 89 104
96 Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ 44.60 101 41
97 Toledo, OH 44.58 94 85
98 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 44.55 103 37
99 Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO 44.33 105 35
100 Greensboro-High Point, NC 44.12 108 27
101 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 44.11 104 44
102 Knoxville, TN 43.92 99 71
103 Tulsa, OK 43.79 102 60
104 Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 43.54 90 129
105 Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC 43.44 114 14
106 Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL 43.20 91 133
107 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 43.17 113 25
108 Killeen-Temple, TX 42.07 110 80
109 Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC 41.94 111 77
110 Baton Rouge, LA 41.23 112 81
111 Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL 41.00 93 149
112 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 40.95 107 121
113 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 40.88 109 116
114 Salem, OR 40.70 115 69
115 Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 40.63 100 139
116 Winston-Salem, NC 40.24 117 74
117 Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 39.53 120 65
118 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 38.83 127 19
119 Canton-Massillon, OH 38.73 124 40
120 Flint, MI 38.63 121 89
121 Chattanooga, TN-GA 38.18 122 101
122 Mobile, AL 38.14 129 10
123 Salisbury, MD-DE 37.81 119 126
124 Shreveport-Bossier City, LA 37.69 128 29
125 Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS 37.30 126 92
126 Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA 37.19 123 113
127 Rockford, IL 36.68 125 110
128 York-Hanover, PA 36.64 130 34
129 Port St. Lucie, FL 36.21 116 144
130 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 36.04 118 146
131 Lancaster, PA 35.47 131 50
132 Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA 33.84 133 72
133 Reading, PA 33.05 132 105
134 Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH 33.01 134 66
135 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 31.57 138 16
136 Lafayette, LA 30.64 140 11
137 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 29.95 136 98
138 El Paso, TX 29.56 141 30
139 Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX 28.94 139 57
140 Corpus Christi, TX 27.90 137 131
141 Ocala, FL 26.32 135 145
142 Fresno, CA 25.54 145 53
143 Stockton-Lodi, CA 24.69 144 111
144 Salinas, CA 22.98 142 141
145 Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC 22.29 143 143
146 Modesto, CA 20.57 146 138
147 Bakersfield, CA 16.28 147 135
148 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 11.32 150 1
149 Brownsville-Harlingen, TX 8.75 149 96
150 Visalia-Porterville, CA 6.87 148 148

 

High Education Level…MixedLow Education Level…New York, NYDallas, TXWashington, DCBoston, MARiverside, CAMinneapolis, MNSt. Louis, MOCharlotte, NCSan Antonio, TXCincinnati, OHCleveland, OHSan Jose, CAVirginia Beach, VAJacksonville, FLLoiusville, KYRaleigh, NCBirmingham, ALGrand Rapids, MITulsa, OKWorcester, MAAlbany, NYNew Haven, CTEl Paso, TXBaton Rouge, LANorth Port, FLLittle Rock, ARColorado Springs, COSyracuse, NYLakeland, FLSpringfield, MAToledo, OHProvo, UTScranton, PASpokane, WAModesto, CASanta Rosa, CAPensacola, FLSpringfield, MOShreveport, LAYork, PASalinas, CAFort Wayne, INMobile, ALBeaumont, TXCanton, OHGulfport, MSFayetteville, NCSavannah, GAHuntington, WVNaples, FL0408012016004080120160Overall Education RankingAnnual Median Household Income Ranking

State Overall Education Ranking Annual Median Household Income Ranking .
New York, NY 29 16 High Education Level & High income
Dallas, TX 77 37 Mixed
Washington, DC 2 2 High Education Level & High income
Boston, MA 7 7 High Education Level & High income
Riverside, CA 137 58 Mixed
Minneapolis, MN 17 14 High Education Level & High income
St. Louis, MO 39 57 High Education Level & High income
Charlotte, NC 54 64 High Education Level & High income
San Antonio, TX 107 69 Mixed
Cincinnati, OH 62 56 High Education Level & High income
Cleveland, OH 85 96 Low Education Level & Low Income
San Jose, CA 3 1 High Education Level & High income
Virginia Beach, VA 47 44 High Education Level & High income
Jacksonville, FL 75 74 High Education Level & High income
Loiusville, KY 95 82 Low Education Level & Low Income
Raleigh, NC 13 22 High Education Level & High income
Birmingham, AL 90 101 Low Education Level & Low Income
Grand Rapids, MI 57 61 High Education Level & High income
Tulsa, OK 103 97 Low Education Level & Low Income
Worcester, MA 49 21 High Education Level & High income
Albany, NY 24 28 High Education Level & High income
New Haven, CT 44 33 High Education Level & High income
El Paso, TX 138 146 Low Education Level & Low Income
Baton Rouge, LA 110 79 Low Education Level & Low Income
North Port, FL 84 85 Low Education Level & Low Income
Little Rock, AR 67 104 Mixed
Colorado Springs, CO 12 43 High Education Level & High income
Syracuse, NY 64 70 High Education Level & High income
Lakeland, FL 135 138 Low Education Level & Low Income
Springfield, MA 60 75 High Education Level & High income
Toledo, OH 97 128 Low Education Level & Low Income
Provo, UT 11 26 High Education Level & High income
Scranton, PA 126 126 Low Education Level & Low Income
Spokane, WA 46 107 Mixed
Modesto, CA 146 91 Low Education Level & Low Income
Santa Rosa, CA 36 18 High Education Level & High income
Pensacola, FL 106 100 Low Education Level & Low Income
Springfield, MO 91 139 Low Education Level & Low Income
Shreveport, LA 124 144 Low Education Level & Low Income
York, PA 128 45 Mixed
Salinas, CA 144 40 Mixed
Fort Wayne, IN 93 103 Low Education Level & Low Income
Mobile, AL 122 137 Low Education Level & Low Income
Beaumont, TX 139 123 Low Education Level & Low Income
Canton, OH 119 112 Low Education Level & Low Income
Gulfport, MS 125 132 Low Education Level & Low Income
Fayetteville, NC 89 136 Low Education Level & Low Income
Savannah, GA 58 86 Mixed
Huntington, WV 134 142 Low Education Level & Low Income
Naples, FL 56 47 High Education Level & High income

Note: For readability purposes, the above chart displays only 50 metro areas from a total sample of 150.

Artwork-2018-Most Educated Cities report-v2

Ask the Experts

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:

  1. Should local authorities target policies and programs to attract highly educated people? If so, what works?
  2. Are highly educated cities better able to withstand economic shocks?
  3. In your opinion, what is the most important step we can take as a country to develop a more educated and skilled workforce?
  4. 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?
  5. How can the U.S. reform its immigration policy in order to attract and retain highly educated workers from abroad?
Back to All Experts

Brock T. Jolly

Managing Partner, The College Funding Coach
Brock T. Jolly

Should local authorities target policies and programs to attract highly educated people? If so, what works?

Thomas Jefferson famously said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” In my opinion, education is the key to growth, both personally and professionally. As a general rule, people are looking to live in cities that inspire them, that allow them to surround themselves with like-minded people from many perspectives, including education. An educated population is critically important in helping a community to thrive, both culturally and economically. I firmly believe that we can learn best from a broadly-diversified mix of people. That said, I don’t know that policies for attracting these people makes sense as much as a culture of attracting them makes sense. By understanding and respecting people of diverse social, ethnic, geographic and educational backgrounds, we are all able to continuously learn, improve ourselves, understand other viewpoints and create a more energized and enriching society for all. Economically, this also helps to build the state and local tax base, which contributes to the educational infrastructure, creating a positive cycle of learning and growth.

Are highly educated cities better able to withstand economic shocks?

Certainly a more educated city should be able to bounce back in the event of an economic shock. Based upon critical thinking skills and/or creativity, the more educated a person or a population is, the more easily they may rebound after a downturn. That said, as with anything negative, the biggest factor in withstanding economic shock is attitude. A person’s mental attitude and fortitude, rather than his academic background, probably accounts more for the ability to withstand a recession or other economic shock. There are many undereducated millionaires who learned the value of hard work and hustle, while there are many desolate geniuses who never took enough initiative. Hard work, given time, beats talent every day, but education helps!

In your opinion, what is the most important step we can take as a country to develop a more educated and skilled workforce?

We need to lower the barriers to entry. Whether by improving our need-based aid formulas, lowering costs at both public and private universities or moving more to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), the better. Competition creates opportunity with higher education. Many states provide free tuition at their flagship state universities for any student who meets particular thresholds, including grade point average and community service guidelines. This could be replicated across the country with positive repercussions. Income inequality and a corresponding lack of opportunity prevents so many brilliant minds from pursuing higher education opportunities.

Secondly, I believe it is critical that we begin to pay our teachers in grades K-12 a more sustainable wage. Teachers are among the most influential and underpaid professionals with whom our children interact. One of the most influential people in my life was my high school English teacher. If we can inspire our young people with an intellectual curiosity – especially in areas of interest, rather than teaching to “the middle” – then we can empower our young people to learn, thus having significant impact on our future workforce. We can do this through leveraging technology, character education, arts and athletic programs, and making education the focus of the community. In other words, invest more in our student’s education, not less.

Will the Trump administration’s proposed education budget cuts (to student loans, after school programs, teacher training, etc.) increase or decrease the level of education inequality between cities?

Unfortunately, I think the proposed education budget cuts would have a negative impact on higher education. The existing budgets are already low enough. Imagine if we cut defense spending and correspondingly increased education spending what the long-term impact on the global economy might be. In cities that are highly educated, my guess is that they will have the economic resources to survive; but in less-highly educated cities, the economic disparity will likely cause greater education inequality. With fewer opportunities – whether through after school programs, teacher training, curriculum enhancements or student loan programs – students at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum will be jeopardized or excluded.

How can the US reform its immigration policy in order to attract and retain highly educated workers from abroad?

I believe that the United States is a beacon of hope for international students. The potential to come to our country, earn an education and contribute to society (both in the United States and abroad) is an attractive proposition. Unfortunately, the current immigration policy tends to throw the good out with the bad. We should increase the opportunity for highly educated international citizens to remain in the country as contributing members of our society. Perhaps we allow them to come to this country and pursue education at a discount as long as they agree to work (and pay taxes) for a number of years afterwards. We are living in a global economy and in some cases there are certain skills that are better done by foreign workers. Regardless, the diverse perspectives created through international collaboration can benefit our consumers, our companies, and ultimately, our economy.

Back to All Experts

Elaine Farndale

Associate Professor, Human Resource Management, Center Director, Center for International Human Resource Studies, Pennsylvania State University
Elaine Farndale

Are highly educated cities better able to withstand economic shocks?

State College PA, the home of the main campus of Penn State, is a perfect example of this. The financial crisis years barely affected the local economy, with house prices, for example, remaining high and relatively stable as they plummeted in other cities across the US.

In your opinion, what is the most important step we can take as a country to develop a more educated and skilled workforce?

Stronger connections between local business and educational institutions (schools, colleges, universities) can be the most effective way to establish a balance between what skills are required and how they can be developed. Partnerships develop a better understanding of skills’ supply and demand.

How can the US reform its immigration policy in order to attract and retain highly educated workers from abroad?

The H1-B visa situation had been allowing some companies to take advantage of the system. Many skilled immigrants have been finding positions through third-party agencies (e.g. Indian sourcing agencies for IT skilled employees) who have acquired a majority share of H1-B visas as a result of the quota system (i.e. that there is a limited number of visas available for people entering from certain countries). The problem that had resulted was that these lower-cost highly-skilled immigrants were sometimes being used to displace more expensive local employees. This is obviously unfair workplace practice, but also discourages local people from skilling themselves in these areas as their job security is being undermined. Moreover, there is little information available about the conditions under which immigrant talent are being treated as employees. High-skill immigration policy should be reformed to ensure that it is being used for genuine cases of skill shortages and not to find cheaper labor. Moreover, immigrants entering the country should have some sense of security about their relocation, allowing them to feel welcomed and also be able to integrate into the workplace as well as society as a whole. Being perceived as taking local jobs when this is not the reality in true skill shortage situations is not helpful for this integration process. My own research in this area indicates that the US firms we spoke with prefer to develop local talent and only use high-skilled immigration when other local options have been exhausted in order to take a longer-term perspective on building their talent pool.

Please note that these are my personal thoughts and are not representative of Penn State University.

Methodology

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 & Older with a High School Diploma or Higher: Full Weight (~20.00 Points)
  • Share of Adults Aged 25 & Older with at Least Some College Experience or an Associate’s Degree or Higher: Full Weight (~20.00 Points)
  • Share of Adults Aged 25 & Older with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher: Full Weight (~20.00 Points)
  • Share of Adults Aged 25 & 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 school systems.
    • Average Quality of Universities: Double Weight (~4.44 Points)
      Note: This metric is based on WalletHub “College & University” rankings Report.
    • Enrolled Students in Top 973 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.

Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, GreatSchools.org, Education Cities.org, Yelp and WalletHub research.

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