Most Educated Cities in America

A formal education certainly isn't the only indicator of a person's intelligence - but it sure doesn't hurt to have one. With this in mind, ValuePenguin set about ranking America's cities in terms of their residents' level of educational attainment. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau (see our methodology below), we gauged the academic achievement of nearly the 25-and-older population of 3,000 cities in this country, rewarding those with the highest percentage of post-high school degrees earned. Check out the report.

Five Most Educated Cities

These five cities earned our five highest "Education Scores," in part, because of the percentage of their age 25-and-over population holding post-high school degrees. More on our methodology below, but before we get to that, let's take a deeper look at each of the top five.

1. Bethesda, Md.

By the Numbers: Taking the top spot in our rankings, in part because 85% of its population earned a degree of some kind, Bethesda also had the study's second-highest percentage of a population to have earned graduate or professional degrees, at 54.6%.

Did you know: The American Association for Higher Education & Accreditation and The National Education Association are among the related organizations based in nearby Washington, D.C, where many Bethesda-based professionals commute to work.

Choice of Campus: A dozen miles east sits, in College Park, the University of Maryland and its 37,000 students.

Factor Value
Population (Age 25+) 43,247
Education Score 32

2. Palo Alto, Calif.

By the Numbers: Beat for the top spot by a 0.15 margin in our Education Score, Palo Alto's mark was still 98% lower (and therefore better) than the study's average.

Did you know: Stanford University, ranked as the US News & World Report's fourth best university in 2015, is still the Silicon Valley's most prestigious institution and one of the nation's best. Also, nearby Oakland, Calif., is the second-best big city for teachers, according to our study.

Choice of Campus: Stanford's rival, the University of California at Berkeley, is an hour's drive up the peninsula, and boasts seven Nobel Prize winners among its 1,620 full-time faculty members.

Factor Value
Population (Age 25+) 46,366
Education Score 32

3. Brookline, Mass.

By the Numbers: Brookline is the first of six Massachusetts cities to crack our study's top 25. Only California (eight) had more representation in the top 25, and no other state had more than two mentions.

Did you know: U.S. president John F. Kennedy was born in Brookline and attended Harvard University three miles north, in nearby Cambridge.

Choice of Campus: Beyond Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology held its first classes in Feb. 1865 and has of the country's highest admission standards.

Factor Value
Population (Age 25+) 40,820
Education Score 39

4. Newton, Mass.

By the Numbers: Newton, which is Brookline's next-door neighbor to the west, bested McLean, Va., for this fourth spot only after we adjusted for population.

Did you know: Actor Matt Damon, who sneaked his way into MIT in the movie "Good Will Hunting," lived for a time in Newton while growing up.

Choice of Campus: Boston College and its esteemed law school, in Newton proper, is one of many higher-education options in the area.

Factor Value
Population (Age 25+) 56,708
Education Score 45

5. McLean, Va.

By the Numbers: The least-populated city among the top five and the last place to record a sub-50 Education Score, McLean also registered one of the study's lowest percentages (0.5) of a population to have not attended high school at all.

Did you know: Many American leaders in government live here given its 10-mile proximity to Washington, D.C., which is southeast and just across the Potomac River.

Choice of Campus: George Mason University has a strong argument to make about being the best higher-education option nearby; it's located in Fairfax, Va.

Factor Value
Population (Age 25+) 33,206
Education Score 48

Population Breakdown

Although we adjusted for population in our education rankings, it is still difficult to compare a small city to a larger one. To account for this fact, we separated the safest cities into three categories: cities with age 25-and-older populations between 10,000 and 25,000, midsize cities with populations between 25,000 and 50,000, and larger cities with populations greater than 50,000. Here are our findings:

The 100 Most Educated Cities

Below we've laid out the 100 cities with the highest levels of education among the 25-and-older crowd in the US:

Methodology

ValuePenguin pulled this data from the U.S. Census Bureau's five-year American Community Survey, which was completed in 2013. It included the age 25-and-over population of American cities as well as the percentage of that population that had reached one of the following levels of education:

  1. Did not attend high school
  2. Attended high school
  3. Received a high school diploma
  4. Attended college
  5. Earned an associate degree
  6. Earned a bachelor's degree
  7. Earned a graduate or professional degree

From this, we simplified these levels of educational attainment to:

  • Attended college (i.e. levels 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  • Earned a post-high school degree (i.e. levels 5, 6 and 7)

We ranked each city according to its standing in these two broader categories, then multiplied this ranking by a weighted representation of the city's population. This equation resulted in our education score.

We then discarded cities with fewer than 10,000 citizens. This left us with 2,746 cities to analyze.

Here is an alphabetical table of the top 100 cities included with their ranks, making it easier to compare different cities. See if your city cracked the list.

Rank City Population % with Degree Education Score
99 Alamo, California  10,661 78.0 169
86 Albany, California  12,720 76.1 161
12 Ann Arbor, Michigan  63,963 75.2 77
95 Apex, North Carolina  24,085 70.7 167
76 Arlington, Massachusetts  32,127 70.6 153
8 Arlington, Virginia  161,322 75.4 63
66 Bellaire, Texas  11,367 80.5 143
67 Bellevue, Washington  92,630 69.3 145
57 Belmont, Massachusetts  17,266 75.6 136
20 Berkeley, California  71,269 73.6 85
1 Bethesda, Maryland  43,247 85.1 32
38 Birmingham, Michigan  14,381 80.7 117
94 Blacksburg, Virginia  14,100 74.6 167
11 Boulder, Colorado  56,167 75.7 74
61 Brentwood, Tennessee  24,502 72.8 138
3 Brookline, Massachusetts  40,820 83.2 39
9 Cambridge, Massachusetts  72,386 75.9 67
28 Carmel, Indiana  53,562 73.0 100
53 Cary, North Carolina  93,210 70.1 131
17 Chapel Hill, North Carolina  29,245 78.3 83
87 Chesterfield, Missouri  33,853 70.1 161
84 Columbia, Maryland  70,430 68.5 159
55 Coral Gables, Florida  31,541 71.9 134
81 Creve Coeur, Missouri  12,954 76.8 156
7 Cupertino, California  39,914 79.3 60
71 Danville, California  28,728 71.2 150
41 Darien, Connecticut  12,523 83.2 121
24 Davis, California  33,475 75.5 96
93 Decatur, Georgia  13,353 75.1 167
80 Deerfield, Illinois  12,251 77.9 155
16 Dublin, Ohio  27,213 78.4 83
68 Dunwoody, Georgia  33,013 71.0 147
85 East Lansing, Michigan  14,781 74.8 160
88 Eden Prairie, Minnesota  40,975 69.5 161
45 Edina, Minnesota  34,326 72.1 127
77 Ellicott, Maryland  44,776 69.7 154
78 Evanston, Illinois  47,622 69.5 155
69 Fort Hunt, Virginia  11,652 79.5 148
52 Franklin Farm, Virginia  12,646 81.2 129
58 Great Falls, Virginia  10,537 84.1 137
63 Hermosa Beach, California  15,095 76.7 141
91 Highlands Ranch, Colorado  63,391 68.3 165
96 Hinsdale, Illinois  10,202 79.1 167
19 Hoboken, New Jersey  38,417 76.1 84
89 Hudson, Ohio  14,740 74.6 162
25 Irvine, California  142,241 71.8 99
56 Johns Creek, Georgia  49,908 70.5 135
54 La Cañada Flintridge, California  13,179 79.6 133
35 Lafayette, California  16,745 79.3 113
73 Lake Forest, Illinois  12,740 77.8 152
74 Lake Oswego, Oregon  26,701 71.3 152
29 Leawood, Kansas  21,971 78.1 101
15 Lexington, Massachusetts  22,008 80.5 83
14 Los Altos, California  20,856 82.8 80
36 Los Gatos, California  21,656 76.5 113
18 Manhattan Beach, California  25,131 79.2 84
92 Marblehead, Massachusetts  13,894 74.8 165
5 McLean, Virginia  33,206 83.9 48
46 Menlo Park, California  22,903 74.6 127
31 Mercer Island, Washington  16,696 80.4 106
62 Milton, Georgia  21,497 73.3 139
83 Moraga, California  10,338 79.9 157
33 Mountain Brook, Alabama  13,199 87.4 108
37 Naperville, Illinois  91,192 71.2 114
23 Needham, Massachusetts  19,560 79.9 94
43 Newport Beach, California  64,247 70.9 124
4 Newton, Massachusetts  56,708 79.7 45
26 North Bethesda, Maryland  33,459 75.3 99
32 North Potomac, Maryland  15,631 81.5 106
59 Northbrook, Illinois  23,479 72.9 137
49 Oak Park, Illinois  36,020 72.0 127
72 Oakton, Virginia  25,228 71.6 150
70 Okemos, Michigan  14,269 76.1 149
47 Orinda, California  12,489 82.1 127
2 Palo Alto, California  46,366 84.0 32
6 Potomac, Maryland  31,853 83.2 51
27 Princeton, New Jersey  16,716 81.5 100
65 Rancho Palos Verdes, California  30,554 71.4 143
51 Reston, Virginia  43,652 71.4 129
42 Ridgewood, New Jersey  16,311 78.3 121
13 Sammamish, Washington  29,528 78.4 80
39 San Ramon, California  47,532 71.7 119
44 Santa Monica, California  71,019 70.5 127
10 Saratoga, California  21,867 83.2 74
50 Scarsdale, New York  10,745 88.8 129
97 Short Pump, Virginia  16,618 72.7 167
75 South Riding, Virginia  15,438 75.0 153
82 Southlake, Texas  16,808 73.4 156
48 Tysons Corner, Virginia  15,624 78.2 127
40 University Park, Texas  12,009 85.6 119
30 Upper Arlington, Ohio  23,448 76.8 104
90 Vestavia Hills, Alabama  23,344 71.1 164
22 Wellesley, Massachusetts  15,894 84.8 93
60 West University Place, Texas  10,118 88.7 138
34 Westport, Connecticut  17,897 78.6 111
98 Wildwood, Missouri  22,423 70.8 169
21 Wilmette, Illinois  17,837 83.2 90
79 Winchester, Massachusetts  14,391 75.4 155
64 Wolf Trap, Virginia  10,970 81.9 142
100 Zionsville, Indiana  14,992 73.2 170

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