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.
|Population (Age 25+)||43,247|
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.
|Population (Age 25+)||46,366|
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.
|Population (Age 25+)||40,820|
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.
|Population (Age 25+)||56,708|
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.
|Population (Age 25+)||33,206|
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:
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:
- Did not attend high school
- Attended high school
- Received a high school diploma
- Attended college
- Earned an associate degree
- Earned a bachelor's degree
- 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|
|12||Ann Arbor, Michigan||63,963||75.2||77|
|95||Apex, North Carolina||24,085||70.7||167|
|53||Cary, North Carolina||93,210||70.1||131|
|17||Chapel Hill, North Carolina||29,245||78.3||83|
|55||Coral Gables, Florida||31,541||71.9||134|
|81||Creve Coeur, Missouri||12,954||76.8||156|
|85||East Lansing, Michigan||14,781||74.8||160|
|88||Eden Prairie, Minnesota||40,975||69.5||161|
|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|
|19||Hoboken, New Jersey||38,417||76.1||84|
|56||Johns Creek, Georgia||49,908||70.5||135|
|54||La Cañada Flintridge, California||13,179||79.6||133|
|73||Lake Forest, Illinois||12,740||77.8||152|
|74||Lake Oswego, Oregon||26,701||71.3||152|
|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|
|46||Menlo Park, California||22,903||74.6||127|
|31||Mercer Island, Washington||16,696||80.4||106|
|33||Mountain Brook, Alabama||13,199||87.4||108|
|43||Newport Beach, California||64,247||70.9||124|
|26||North Bethesda, Maryland||33,459||75.3||99|
|32||North Potomac, Maryland||15,631||81.5||106|
|49||Oak Park, Illinois||36,020||72.0||127|
|2||Palo Alto, California||46,366||84.0||32|
|27||Princeton, New Jersey||16,716||81.5||100|
|65||Rancho Palos Verdes, California||30,554||71.4||143|
|42||Ridgewood, New Jersey||16,311||78.3||121|
|39||San Ramon, California||47,532||71.7||119|
|44||Santa Monica, California||71,019||70.5||127|
|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|
|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|
|60||West University Place, Texas||10,118||88.7||138|
|64||Wolf Trap, Virginia||10,970||81.9||142|