These are the most and least educated cities in the US

WalletHub compared certain education metrics of the nation's 150 largest cities to find the most educated one is in the Midwest.
Posted at 9:03 PM, Jul 08, 2024

When you think of the most educated people in the U.S., where do you picture them living? Maybe they've stuck close to their alma maters or headed out to the big cities; they could be living alone on an island, or neighbors with their peers in a random suburb.

No matter which one you imagine, the real point is that they all could be true. But with any statistic, there's one place that's bound to have a higher amount of educated folks than another, and a new report from WalletHub shows that place is the "Tree Town" of the Midwest: Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The financial services company compared 150 of the largest metropolitan statistical areas across 11 metrics that fell under two categories, "educational attainment" and "quality of education and attainment gap," to determine Ann Arbor is the nation's most educated city.

The riverside town has the country's highest rates of adults 25 and older with a high school diploma (over 95%), with a bachelor's degree (over 57%) and with an advanced degree (over 30%), according to WalletHub.

The site also found Ann Arbor ranks as No. 5 for the quality of its universities, one of which is the University of Michigan. Its public school system ranks No. 18, and it has high levels of educational attainment equality between women and men, WalletHub said.

Related: These are the happiest cities in the US

WalletHub financial writer Adam McCann says the reason certain areas may have more educated people is that they "want to live somewhere where they will get a good return on their educational investment." He notes that cities want highly educated people to work in their economies to fuel growth, and those people tend to earn more money and contribute more tax dollars — a cycle of sorts that keeps cities with well-educated people in similar cycles over the years.

Higher education doesn't always mean you'll have a better salary — however, WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe said "it certainly correlates with it."

That could add to the reasoning behind the San Jose metro area in California ranking No. 2 for the nation's most educated residents. More than 54% of adults in the city, which ranks first for university quality in the U.S., have at least a bachelor's degree and more than 26% have an advanced one, WalletHub said.

San Jose is known for being a hub of innovation, notably in technology with the multitude of major brands in Silicon Valley. It's also one of the wealthiest major cities in the world, which makes sense based on Happe's point.

Ranking No. 3 for most educated is our nation's capital city, Washington, D.C., and its surrounding metro area. WalletHub says 53% of adults 25 and older have a bachelor's degree and 26% have gotten a higher one.

WalletHub's 10 most educated cities in the U.S.:

  1. Ann Arbor, Michigan
  2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
  3. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia
  4. Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  5. Madison, Wisconsin
  6. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, California
  7. Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina
  8. Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, Texas
  9. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts-New Hampshire
  10. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington

Meanwhile, the 10 least educated cities in America hail from three states: California, Texas and North Carolina. These areas have the lowest percentage of high school diplomas and holders of associate's degrees or higher in the U.S. WalletHub also says there are two times the amount of college-experienced adults in Ann Arbor than in McAllen, Texas, which ranked No. 150 on its list.

WalletHub's 10 least educated cities in the U.S.:

141. Corpus Christi, Texas
142. Salinas, California
143. Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas
144. Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, North Carolina
145. Stockton, California
146. Modesto, California
147. Bakersfield, California
148. Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas
149. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
150. Visalia, California

To fix this gap, multiple experts told WalletHub there won't be a one-size-fits-all approach. However, they all appeared to agree that the country's educational system needs to fix access issues and increase support in fostering a better learning environment, whether that be through the community or at home.

"Not only is it important for society to create highly educated people to solve global problems, but, maybe more importantly, communities need highly educated people to solve local problems that immediately impact local constituents," Dr. Brett A. Geier, a professor at Western Michigan University, told WalletHub. "With support from the entire community, students should be able to receive educational experiences and pragmatic opportunities to advance their skills so that a cycle of educational opportunity is consistently present, which helps to break the generational poverty cycle."