What does it mean for a city to be “educated”? Is it the number of colleges, or the number of colleges per 100,000 people? Or, is being a high school graduate enough? Another measure might be people with a Ph.D. or the number of people who went to graduate schools. The measure, by its nature, is arbitrary. For the most part, people are trapped by their surroundings when it comes to education. Cities with high poverty rates are unlikely to have high education rates. The same is probably true for very low household income.
Nationwide, an estimated 32.1% of American adults 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Educational attainment rates vary considerably across the country, however, and in some cities, the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree is more than double the national average. For example, the average weekly wage for a college-educated worker in the United States is about 67% higher than it is for those with no more than a high school diploma. Additionally, college-educated Americans are less than half as likely to be unemployed as those who only finished high school.
Using education data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most educated city in the United States. In each of the cities on our finalist list, over 70% of the adult population have at least a bachelor’s degree.
To determine America’s most educated city, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of the percentage of adults 25 years and over with at least a bachelor’s degree from the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey (ACS). Information on median household income, unemployment rates for the 25- to 64-year-old population that have at least a bachelor’s degree, and unemployment rates for the 25- to 64-year-old population for all educational attainment levels are five-year estimates from the 2019 ACS.
We used Census Bureau “place” geographies, a category that includes 29,573 incorporated legal entities and designated statistical entities. We only considered the 29,320 places that had boundaries that fell within one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia.
We defined cities based on a population threshold (having more than 25,000 people), and 1,775 of the places fell within this threshold.
Cities were then excluded if bachelor’s degree or higher attainment rates were not available in the 2019 ACS, if the city’s 25-and-older population was less than 1,000 or if the sampling error associated with a city’s data was deemed too high.
The sampling error was defined as too high if the coefficient of variation (a statistical assessment of how reliable an estimate is) for a city’s bachelor’s or higher attainment rate was above 15% and greater than two standard deviations above the mean CV for all cities’ bachelor’s or higher attainment rate. We similarly excluded cities that had a sampling error too high for their 25-and-over population estimates, using the same definition.
The remaining 1,771 places were ranked based on the share of adults 25 years and over with at least a bachelor’s degree.
University Park, Texas, is the most educated city. Here are the details:
- Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 87.8%
- Median household income: $224,485 (third highest of 1,771 cities)
- Estimated unemployment rate 2015 to 2019, all workers: 2.3% (tied for 308th lowest)
- Estimated unemployment rate 2015 to 2019, adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 2.4% (tied for 761st lowest)