Most Educated Cities in 2016

Contents

From education level, the rates of employment and poverty as well as the quality of schools and beyond, there are myriad important factors to consider determining the most educated cities in America. Seeking to capture these factors, we considered 17 data points from three sources and interviewed two experts. Below you will find our results, as well as a detailed methodology explaining how we arrived at them.

200 Most Educated Cities in America

Here is how every city captured in our study ranks in the four categories of data that best helped us evaluate.

Overall MSA Attainment Education and Poverty School Quality Education and Employment
1 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 4 34 4 115
2 Boulder, CO 1 111 16 38
3 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 7 87 4 100
4 Fort Collins, CO 5 62 36 66
5 Ann Arbor, MI 2 146 3 149
6 Austin-Round Rock, TX 16 77 22 40
7 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 15 57 20 98
8 Charlottesville, VA 19 112 13 93
9 Raleigh, NC 8 28 47 48
10 Rochester, MN 24 3 47 2
11 Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA 21 128 4 127
12 Cedar Rapids, IA 52 4 19 5
13 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 3 9 83 16
14 Olympia-Tumwater, WA 38 86 2 158
15 San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA 48 80 1 177
16 Santa Rosa, CA 48 105 4 122
17 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 31 160 4 174
18 Tallahassee, FL 29 194 9 119
19 Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 22 24 74 21
20 Pittsburgh, PA 62 41 17 58
21 Gainesville, FL 13 198 22 157
22 Colorado Springs, CO 22 75 41 176
23 Sioux Falls, SD 39 8 77 1
24 Portland-South Portland, ME 25 69 79 14
25 Appleton, WI 75 2 44 3
26 Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 77 39 22 50
27 Provo-Orem, UT 17 97 69 143
28 Urban Honolulu, HI 40 31 59 138
29 Huntsville, AL 36 48 60 136
30 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 87 25 13 145
31 Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL 65 91 22 139
32 Lexington-Fayette, KY 42 134 54 62
33 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 34 148 47 128
34 Wilmington, NC 35 164 47 132
35 Barnstable Town, MA 12 43 105 101
36 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 33 124 74 92
37 Charleston-North Charleston, SC 54 131 43 126
38 Lincoln, NE 20 38 117 6
39 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 85 108 9 163
40 Richmond, VA 64 30 71 54
41 Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL 98 78 9 168
42 Roanoke, VA 118 60 13 59
43 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 83 169 22 110
44 Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA 75 170 20 170
45 Madison, WI 6 26 154 7
46 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 88 189 22 107
47 Anchorage, AK 77 7 83 95
48 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA 45 33 117 10
49 Asheville, NC 63 176 47 151
50 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 94 125 22 187
51 Bremerton-Silverdale, WA 55 42 86 192
52 Rochester, NY 31 51 135 53
53 Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA 60 159 63 164
54 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 80 54 88 35
55 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 10 40 157 26
56 Kansas City, MO-KS 53 37 128 27
57 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 107 161 22 148
58 York-Hanover, PA 163 1 17 25
59 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 81 45 101 46
60 Amarillo, TX 153 59 22 24
61 Binghamton, NY 91 116 74 89
62 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 60 15 119 108
63 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 65 96 106 77
64 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 37 23 154 32
65 Boise City, ID 85 145 79 113
66 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 134 137 9 186
67 Tucson, AZ 83 188 58 171
68 Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA 27 18 177 4
69 Salt Lake City, UT 70 55 128 39
70 Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC 119 76 56 109
71 Eugene, OR 106 197 38 184
72 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 41 140 136 111
73 Peoria, IL 105 22 100 60
74 Green Bay, WI 108 21 104 12
75 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 109 83 88 68
76 Kennewick-Richland, WA 116 36 86 90
77 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 13 16 192 8
78 Jacksonville, FL 93 115 88 153
79 Springfield, IL 57 56 149 23
80 Durham-Chapel Hill, NC 11 181 159 116
81 Albuquerque, NM 88 195 78 154
82 Port St. Lucie, FL 139 150 22 179
83 Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA 71 90 119 114
84 Columbia, SC 72 114 112 123
85 Knoxville, TN 127 82 62 117
86 Lansing-East Lansing, MI 43 141 146 134
87 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 18 50 185 31
88 Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL 97 95 88 189
89 Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO 143 74 57 73
90 Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA 96 11 141 19
91 Reno, NV 113 142 82 125
92 Lancaster, PA 157 5 83 9
93 Norwich-New London, CT 68 10 157 63
94 Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC 141 166 37 180
95 Prescott, AZ 132 184 39 195
96 Trenton, NJ 26 27 185 97
97 Syracuse, NY 45 72 163 71
98 Fort Wayne, IN 119 58 106 33
99 Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV 179 18 44 84
100 Lubbock, TX 137 120 88 15
101 Manchester-Nashua, NH 28 6 194 13
102 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 77 178 119 124
103 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 50 98 163 70
104 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 55 49 172 61
105 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 131 100 88 112
106 Duluth, MN-WI 101 151 106 103
107 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 9 20 198 78
108 Kalamazoo-Portage, MI 68 167 146 121
109 Worcester, MA-CT 45 32 190 20
110 Springfield, MO 144 161 69 96
111 Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ 116 12 141 41
112 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 94 147 114 141
113 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 81 53 159 37
114 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 30 14 198 17
115 St. Louis, MO-IL 65 63 174 57
116 Oklahoma City, OK 114 93 126 75
117 Medford, OR 146 192 47 191
118 Ogden-Clearfield, UT 73 17 174 82
119 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 145 185 71 105
120 Greensboro-High Point, NC 119 135 106 104
121 El Paso, TX 176 196 22 167
122 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 44 109 183 79
123 Columbus, OH 58 66 185 30
124 Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA 185 103 42 146
125 Tulsa, OK 125 84 126 74
126 Jackson, MS 101 179 130 106
127 Akron, OH 103 64 150 51
128 Savannah, GA 98 156 136 130
129 New Haven-Milford, CT 58 46 190 44
130 Clarksville, TN-KY 168 143 46 197
131 Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX 193 153 22 169
132 Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS 164 168 55 165
133 Charleston, WV 174 61 81 94
134 Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC 181 123 47 137
135 Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN 88 52 167 47
136 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 197 199 22 102
137 Ocala, FL 188 182 22 196
138 Lafayette, LA 189 101 71 29
139 Waco, TX 167 132 88 56
140 Greeley, CO 123 29 150 45
141 Mobile, AL 172 152 60 161
142 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 51 70 196 22
143 Canton-Massillon, OH 171 80 101 69
144 Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 130 89 119 185
145 Montgomery, AL 129 136 115 162
146 Lynchburg, VA 149 68 131 52
147 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 153 186 88 194
148 Corpus Christi, TX 187 102 88 81
149 Erie, PA 134 130 141 76
150 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 177 175 63 182
151 Dayton, OH 110 118 150 133
152 Baton Rouge, LA 147 121 131 64
153 Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL 111 71 177 28
154 Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ 200 187 39 199
155 Longview, TX 190 88 88 118
156 Fayetteville, NC 139 180 106 200
157 Modesto, CA 192 155 63 173
158 Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA 151 92 141 86
159 Tuscaloosa, AL 150 133 115 147
160 Spartanburg, SC 156 129 112 131
161 Salem, OR 157 144 106 178
162 Visalia-Porterville, CA 198 191 63 129
163 Utica-Rome, NY 122 79 163 72
164 Bakersfield, CA 195 172 63 188
165 Toledo, OH 128 173 150 83
166 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 186 158 88 160
167 Salinas, CA 157 106 119 172
168 Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA 182 122 101 142
169 Evansville, IN-KY 151 35 159 34
170 Topeka, KS 133 65 174 18
171 Springfield, MA 74 110 198 42
172 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 125 73 179 55
173 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 104 113 185 65
174 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 98 138 180 156
175 Merced, CA 199 193 63 183
176 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 115 119 163 152
177 Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 91 44 197 36
178 Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR 123 94 182 80
179 Winston-Salem, NC 136 126 159 99
180 Brownsville-Harlingen, TX 196 200 88 140
181 Reading, PA 166 13 172 11
182 Killeen-Temple, TX 161 85 146 198
183 Shreveport-Bossier City, LA 174 164 131 120
184 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 169 149 140 144
185 Wichita, KS 111 67 195 43
186 Salisbury, MD-DE 162 47 154 135
187 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 141 139 167 88
188 Columbus, GA-AL 165 154 136 193
189 Stockton-Lodi, CA 180 174 119 175
190 Fresno, CA 178 190 119 166
191 Chattanooga, TN-GA 157 99 167 85
192 Yakima, WA 194 107 145 87
193 Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH 184 171 139 159
194 Fort Smith, AR-OK 191 163 134 150
195 South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI 137 127 192 49
196 Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 147 157 170 181
197 Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ 155 117 185 91
198 Rockford, IL 170 104 183 67
199 Macon, GA 182 177 170 155
200 Flint, MI 173 183 180 190

Top (and Bottom) Five Cities for...

No two cities were created equal. With this fact in mind, let's break down and explain how we ranked them in four key categories: 

  • Attainment: The percentage of 25-and-older population to reach a specific level of education (i.e. high school, college and beyond).
  • Education and Poverty: The percentage of 25-and-older population whose poverty status is determined by a specific level of education.
  • School Quality: The ratings of primary and secondary schools as well as universities, according to two survey-based sources.
  • Education and Employment: The percentage of 25-and-older population who are employed, according to their specific level of education.

To rank America's cityies by attainment, we considered seven different levels of education (see methodology below). We narrowed our focus to calculate the percentage of each city's population to have earned a degree of some kind, whether it be an associate's, bachelor's or graduate degree. This was also the basis of our Most Educated Cities in 2015 study. In Boulder, Col., for example, 63.8% of the population holds a degree of some kind, while the same figure in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., sits at 19.9%.

For more depth, we returned to the U.S. Census Bureau's vast database of education-related data. To determine whether a university education was lifting the average student-turned-professional above the poverty line, we considered this category. For example, 2.4% of bachelor's degree-holders in York, Pa., are in poverty, compared with 7.8% in Brownsville, Texas.

 

It's one thing for a city's residents to have earned a degree. It's a whole other if the education they received on their way to that degree was of high quality or not. To account for this, we considered two data sources (methodology below) that rate and rank schools based on surveys.

After measuring a city's education level, poverty rate and quality of schools, there was only one more key statistic that we wanted to consider: whether these educated graduates in these supposedly educated cities were able to turn their studies into professions. This last category, also built on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, gave us a percentage of employment for each level of education (high school diploma, associate's degree, etc.). In Sioux Falls, S.D., for example, 90% of bachelor's degree-holders also hold jobs, versus a 68% mark in Fayetteville, N.C.

Methodology

To determine the most educated cities in 2016, we sought out recent data from reputable sources. We ended our search with 17 data points from three such sources to help us evaluate America's 200 most populous cities. Below, we break down each statistic and point to its origin. In parenthesis is the category's weighting, which determined each city's overall rank, and those marked with an asterisk are state-based (not city-based).

Attainment -- percentage of 25-and-older population to reach a specific level of education (1.5 weighting)
1. Did not attend high school U.S. Census Bureau (Table S1501)
2. Attended high school
3. Received a high school diploma
4. Attended college
5. Earned an associate's degree
6. Earned a bachelor's degree
7. Earned a graduate or professional degree
Education and Poverty -- percentage of 25-and-older population whose poverty status is determined by a specific level of education (0.25 weighting)
8. Attended high school U.S. Census Bureau (Table S1501)
9. Received a high school diploma
10. Attended college or earned an associate's degree
11. Earned a bachelor's degree or higher
School Quality -- The ratings of schools, according to two survey-based sources (1.0 weighting)
12. National Universities Rankings* U.S. News & World Report
13. Public primary and secondary schools GreatSchools
Education and Employment -- percentage of 25-and-older population who are employed, according to their specific level of education (0.25 weighting)
14. Attended high school U.S. Census Bureau (Table S2301
15. Received a high school diploma
16. Attended college or earned an associate's degree
17. Earned a bachelor's degree or higher

Education Experts Weigh in

To expand upon our coverage of the most educated cities in America, we put the data aside and reached out to two experts for answers to four questions. Here is what they had to say.

Dr. Chester Goad is a current administrator at Tennessee Technological University as well as a former primary and secondary school principal and teacher, congressional staffer and author.

1. What are the most important factors we should consider when determining which cities are most educated?
It's important for anyone researching education level to factor in skills and technical-based certificates and associate's degrees along with typical four-year undergraduate, graduate and advanced degrees. Simply bean-counting numbers of individuals who hold degrees is not enough. You have to look at the degrees that people are earning, and how they may impact the overall job market, industry and culture of the communities in which they're located. When companies or employers are looking to relocate, they want to know that there's going to be enough people with the appropriate skills necessary to sustain and drive the company in profits and overall success. So they're going to be asking questions about the types of professionals or skilled workers local educational organizations are churning out, making sure that it's a good match. In Tennessee, policy-makers have instituted targeted efforts to ensure that more people are getting a variety of degree types in order to make our state more appealing to prospective companies. It's a supply-and-demand issue really. Employers need certain types of workers depending on their industry, and states want to meet that demand.

2. How is a city affected positively/negatively by the amount of degree-holders it has among its residents?
It's important for cities to take a targeted approach on increasing the types of degrees and education people hold. Some locations can get saturated with certain types of degrees or skills. Often people will move where the jobs are. Industry works similarly: Companies will relocate where the workers are who are qualified to do the work they need. It's no longer as simple as deciding to go somewhere just because the population is saturated with degrees. It's the types of degrees. Many cities have a few industries they're trying to attract. It takes having a workforce that is educated in those particular skills to entice companies to bring jobs. The city workforce has to be able to support and sustain the mission of the business or industry and every city is different. 

3. If it's beneficial for them, how should cities aim to attract highly-educated people?
Some cities as well as private industries are offering incentives to people seeking certain types of degrees, that can sometimes be in the form of tuition-assistance for continued education or professional development, or job-placement agencies offering relocation assistance. Cities have always had to work to attract companies and industries, but now they're having to work more competitively to attract people who are already highly educated or highly skilled. The best scenario though is ensuring that local communities are raising up a skilled, educated workforce and giving them more incentive to stick around, and then marketing the existing workforce to prospective companies or industry. 

4. How can the country as a whole improve the education level of its citizens?
More incentives for states and local communities to set their own targeted degree and skill-attainment goals, support in reaching educational benchmarks, nurturing and maintaining excellence in education. For example, my own state's Drive to 55 initiative is already showing increases in degree attainment. The initiative sets a goal of equipping 55% of Tennesseeans with some form of higher education, whether that's from a technical college, two-year college, or four-year undegraduate university. One of the ways our state is accomplishing this is through what the state calls, Tennessee Promise. Tennessee Promise provides all students who qualify with free community college or technical college for their first two years of higher education, and it provides mentors for every student. As an educator, one thing I really love is that this endeavor hasn't left adults out of the equation. There are incentives for adults to go back and earn college credits as well. It's a lofty but attainable goal, and I respect my state for taking on that kind of endeavor. Like many of our private citizens, I'm of course wishing the program much success. What makes it unique is the approach is not simply an educational goal but a full Tennessee workforce and development goal.
Not every approach is going to be best for every state, but the important thing is for states and communities to realize that education, workforce and economic programs should all work in tandem to attract and maintain successful employment for citizens. I also believe that states and communities should not let the potential of individuals with disabilities slip off the radar either, given the right circumstances and the right opportunities, individuals with disabilities can be a strong addition to the workforce. Considering that the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is much higher than non-disabled workers, education and work programs or incentives for the disabled demographic is also great way to lower the unemployment rate.

Dr. J. Luke Wood is an associate professor of community college leadership at San Diego State University as well as a co-director of the Minority Male Community College Collaborative.

4. How can the country as a whole improve the education level of its citizens?
Better preparing educators to teach students. The vast majority of college and university faculty have never received formal instruction in how to teach students. For example, a professor of biology often has a terminal degree in biology but little if any training in teaching biology. So you have greater content experts with incredible knowledge, but often that knowledge is not properly conveyed to students. Thus, credential college faculty, or ongoing professional development is needed.

Second, we need mandatory preschool for all children. Too often, children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds -- often low income, students of color -- do not have access to preschool or high quality preschools. Thus, these children are then at a disadvantage in early grades, a pattern that only increases over time.

Third, we need to make college more affordable. Partly, the skyrocketing cost of college is due to states withdrawing their financial support; an extreme case of this is evident in Louisiana. As a result, public colleges and universities have sought to maintain fiscal viability by raising tuition, forcing on-campus living, and moving academic programs to the for-profit arms of the college. This has served to negatively effect students by making education to extensive and reducing the quality of education provided. 

Neha Gupta is the owner of College Shortcuts and Elite Private Tutors, a tutoring agency that offers digital online products to students applying to college.

1. What are the most important factors we should consider when determining which cities are most educated?
Consider how competitive it is to get into private schools, especially kindergarten. The word on the street will tell you that this level of competition is a strong indicator of education in cities.

2. How is a city affected positively/negatively by the amount of degree-holders it has among its residents? 
Cities are positively affected by having more degree-holders, as it adds more to the workforce in terms of higher-level positions, which then lead to higher paying jobs, which then leads to better economic status of that particular city.

3. If it's beneficial for them, how should cities aim to attract highly-educated people?
Strong marketing from top universities in that city: When colleges are ranked highly in the area -- or they are pushing for improving their education opportunities -- more people flock to those cities. Also, major company hubs always attract high-level education.

4. How can the country as a whole improve the education level of its citizens?
This one is a big question: I would say honestly -- to improve the college readiness programs at schools. I launched College Shortcuts because I realized that so many students have no idea what they want to do, and they don't know which colleges to go to. This loss of information is causing parents thousands of dollars when their child switches majors, doesn't find their passion, et cetera. It starts in high school.

Jeff Winkler is the CEO of Origin Code Academy, a software developer program.

1. What are the most important factors we should consider when determining which cities are most educated?
I would say besides the obvious metrics, such as high school graduation rates as well as people over the age of 25 with an associates degree or higher, that other things should be used to determine the most educated cities. If you buy into the theory that the average college graduate earns more money over the course of a lifetime than those without a college degree, then you could also use average professional salary as a metric. I think one of the best indicators would be the cities' unemployment rate. Unemployment rate is generally a good indicator of whether a skill gap exists between what employers are hiring for versus existing skills that the work force possesses in that city. In a city that is more educated, you wouldn't have a high unemployment rate as the work force would pursue education of some sort to start filling those jobs. A city that is unable to fill those jobs is less educated and less willing to provide or pursue education to fill those skills. 

2. How is a city affected positively/negatively by the amount of degree-holders it has among its residents? 
A city is impacted positively in many areas such as a larger tax base, lower unemployment and a large talent base for employers to hire from that make the city more attractive when deciding where to be located. It can also be negatively affecting for those that don't have a college degree. If you live in a city with a large amount of degree-holders, it can make it tougher to get a job due to the minimum requirements of an average job being much higher. Employers would be able to require a degree as a minimum requirement, and there would be increased and tougher competition for entry-level and more professional jobs for those without a degree.

3. If it's beneficial for them, how should cities aim to attract highly-educated people?
It's kind of a chicken-and-egg-type of a problem. The best way to attract highly-educated people would be to first attract employers that highly educated people would like to work for during their career. An easy example of how this would work would be to put a Google campus in the middle of a random city in the United States. No matter what city that was, the city they put the campus in would automatically fill up with highly educated people once it was announced that Google was moving a campus to that particular city. However, employers want to know if there is an existing talent pool before they choose a particular city. As a city, you need to ensure that you have enough career training and post-secondary education to make the case to large corporations that you can support their hiring needs in the future.  

4. How can the country as a whole improve the education level of its citizens?
I think the biggest shift in education in the history of our country will take place over the next 25 years. The single thing we can do to improve the education level of our citizens is to focus more on outcome-based education. Rather than sending tens of thousands of students through a process that may or may not train them for a particular occupation, why not structure education directly to preparing them for a career. We hear a lot of stories from friends or friends kids that with the cost of college, they won't be able to afford it. Since when did college because the only form of education for citizens? Why can't they pick a career and go to a school or receive training to start a particular career?  They don't need to take four years and take out hundreds of thousands of dollars out in loans anymore. I think it's time we reverted back to the apprentice style of education and learning, which is hands-on learning a skill that will turn directly into a job upon mastery.  

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