Most Educated Cities in 2016

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.{#fives}

Overall

MSAAttainmentEducation and PovertySchool QualityEducation and Employment

1

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA4344115

2

Boulder, CO11111638

3

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA7874100

4

Fort Collins, CO5623666

5

Ann Arbor, MI21463149

6

Austin-Round Rock, TX16772240

7

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA15572098

8

Charlottesville, VA191121393

9

Raleigh, NC8284748

10

Rochester, MN243472

11

Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA211284127

12

Cedar Rapids, IA524195

13

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV398316

14

Olympia-Tumwater, WA38862158

15

San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA48801177

16

Santa Rosa, CA481054122

17

San Diego-Carlsbad, CA311604174

18

Tallahassee, FL291949119

19

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY22247421

20

Pittsburgh, PA62411758

21

Gainesville, FL1319822157

22

Colorado Springs, CO227541176

23

Sioux Falls, SD398771

24

Portland-South Portland, ME25697914

25

Appleton, WI752443

26

Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI77392250

27

Provo-Orem, UT179769143

28

Urban Honolulu, HI403159138

29

Huntsville, AL364860136

30

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC872513145

31

Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL659122139

32

Lexington-Fayette, KY421345462

33

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA3414847128

34

Wilmington, NC3516447132

35

Barnstable Town, MA1243105101

36

New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA331247492

37

Charleston-North Charleston, SC5413143126

38

Lincoln, NE20381176

39

North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL851089163

40

Richmond, VA64307154

41

Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL98789168

42

Roanoke, VA118601359

43

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL8316922110

44

Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA7517020170

45

Madison, WI6261547

46

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL8818922107

47

Anchorage, AK7778395

48

Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA453311710

49

Asheville, NC6317647151

50

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL9412522187

51

Bremerton-Silverdale, WA554286192

52

Rochester, NY315113553

53

Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA6015963164

54

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX80548835

55

Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH104015726

56

Kansas City, MO-KS533712827

57

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL10716122148

58

York-Hanover, PA16311725

59

Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN814510146

60

Amarillo, TX153592224

61

Binghamton, NY911167489

62

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA6015119108

63

Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC659610677

64

Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD372315432

65

Boise City, ID8514579113

66

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL1341379186

67

Tucson, AZ8318858171

68

Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA27181774

69

Salt Lake City, UT705512839

70

Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC1197656109

71

Eugene, OR10619738184

72

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA41140136111

73

Peoria, IL1052210060

74

Green Bay, WI1082110412

75

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX109838868

76

Kennewick-Richland, WA116368690

77

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI13161928

78

Jacksonville, FL9311588153

79

Springfield, IL575614923

80

Durham-Chapel Hill, NC11181159116

81

Albuquerque, NM8819578154

82

Port St. Lucie, FL13915022179

83

Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA7190119114

84

Columbia, SC72114112123

85

Knoxville, TN1278262117

86

Lansing-East Lansing, MI43141146134

87

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO185018531

88

Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL979588189

89

Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO143745773

90

Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA961114119

91

Reno, NV11314282125

92

Lancaster, PA1575839

93

Norwich-New London, CT681015763

94

Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC14116637180

95

Prescott, AZ13218439195

96

Trenton, NJ262718597

97

Syracuse, NY457216371

98

Fort Wayne, IN1195810633

99

Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV179184484

100

Lubbock, TX1371208815

101

Manchester-Nashua, NH28619413

102

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA77178119124

103

Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY509816370

104

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD554917261

105

San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX13110088112

106

Duluth, MN-WI101151106103

107

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT92019878

108

Kalamazoo-Portage, MI68167146121

109

Worcester, MA-CT453219020

110

Springfield, MO1441616996

111

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ1161214141

112

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ94147114141

113

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN815315937

114

Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT301419817

115

St. Louis, MO-IL656317457

116

Oklahoma City, OK1149312675

117

Medford, OR14619247191

118

Ogden-Clearfield, UT731717482

119

New Orleans-Metairie, LA14518571105

120

Greensboro-High Point, NC119135106104

121

El Paso, TX17619622167

122

Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI4410918379

123

Columbus, OH586618530

124

Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA18510342146

125

Tulsa, OK1258412674

126

Jackson, MS101179130106

127

Akron, OH1036415051

128

Savannah, GA98156136130

129

New Haven-Milford, CT584619044

130

Clarksville, TN-KY16814346197

131

Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX19315322169

132

Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS16416855165

133

Charleston, WV174618194

134

Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC18112347137

135

Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN885216747

136

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX19719922102

137

Ocala, FL18818222196

138

Lafayette, LA1891017129

139

Waco, TX1671328856

140

Greeley, CO1232915045

141

Mobile, AL17215260161

142

Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI517019622

143

Canton-Massillon, OH1718010169

144

Vallejo-Fairfield, CA13089119185

145

Montgomery, AL129136115162

146

Lynchburg, VA1496813152

147

Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL15318688194

148

Corpus Christi, TX1871028881

149

Erie, PA13413014176

150

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA17717563182

151

Dayton, OH110118150133

152

Baton Rouge, LA14712113164

153

Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL1117117728

154

Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ20018739199

155

Longview, TX1908888118

156

Fayetteville, NC139180106200

157

Modesto, CA19215563173

158

Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA1519214186

159

Tuscaloosa, AL150133115147

160

Spartanburg, SC156129112131

161

Salem, OR157144106178

162

Visalia-Porterville, CA19819163129

163

Utica-Rome, NY1227916372

164

Bakersfield, CA19517263188

165

Toledo, OH12817315083

166

Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL18615888160

167

Salinas, CA157106119172

168

Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA182122101142

169

Evansville, IN-KY1513515934

170

Topeka, KS1336517418

171

Springfield, MA7411019842

172

Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN1257317955

173

Cleveland-Elyria, OH10411318565

174

Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI98138180156

175

Merced, CA19919363183

176

Birmingham-Hoover, AL115119163152

177

Providence-Warwick, RI-MA914419736

178

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR1239418280

179

Winston-Salem, NC13612615999

180

Brownsville-Harlingen, TX19620088140

181

Reading, PA1661317211

182

Killeen-Temple, TX16185146198

183

Shreveport-Bossier City, LA174164131120

184

Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV169149140144

185

Wichita, KS1116719543

186

Salisbury, MD-DE16247154135

187

Memphis, TN-MS-AR14113916788

188

Columbus, GA-AL165154136193

189

Stockton-Lodi, CA180174119175

190

Fresno, CA178190119166

191

Chattanooga, TN-GA1579916785

192

Yakima, WA19410714587

193

Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH184171139159

194

Fort Smith, AR-OK191163134150

195

South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI13712719249

196

Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC147157170181

197

Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ15511718591

198

Rockford, IL17010418367

199

Macon, GA182177170155

200

Flint, MI173183180190

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: Thepercentage 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:Thepercentage of 25-and-older population who are employed, according to their specific level of education.
Best vs. Worst Attainment Cities
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%.
Education/Poverty Best vs. Worst Cities
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.
Best vs. Worst School Quality

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.

Education/Employment Best vs. Worst
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 of25-and-older population to reach a specific level of education (1.5 weighting)

1. Did not attend high schoolU.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 schoolU.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 schoolsGreatSchools
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 schoolU.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.

Chester Goad headshot

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 Tennesseans with some form of higher education, whether that's from a technical college, two-year college, or four-year undergraduate 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.

J.Luke Wood headshot

*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 affect students by making education to extensive and reducing the quality of education provided.

Neha Gupta headshot
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 headshot
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 workforce 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.

Comments and Questions