Special Report

The Most Educated City in Every State

Detailed Findings

Every metro area on this list is home to at least two higher education institutions. In many cases, the city with the highest bachelor’s degree attainment rate is also home to the largest research university in the state — and this is no coincidence. Postsecondary institutions employ highly educated instructors and researchers, award hundreds if not thousands of degrees a year, and often offer graduate programs for which a bachelor’s degree is a precondition to enrollment.

Cities on this list where high educational attainment is driven by the presence of a large university include: Ames, Iowa; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Bloomington, Indiana; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Ithaca, New York.

Cities with large shares of college-educated adults also often have economies with high concentrations of professional and business service occupations, as well as other high-skill industries such as finance. Companies offering jobs that require a college education will often choose to operate in a city with a well-educated population for better access to qualified workers. Similarly, college graduates will often choose to live in a city where they can more easily leverage their education to secure a job.

Jobs that require a college degree are often higher paying than those with lower educational requirements. Partially as a result, incomes tend to be high in highly-educated cities. In 38 of of the 50 cities on this list, the typical household earns more than than the median household income in the state as a whole.

Just because a city ranks as the best-educated in its state does not mean it is well-educated relative to the nation as a whole. In 10 states, the most educated city is home to a smaller share of adults with bachelor’s degrees than the 32.0% national share.

In rare cases, the most highly-educated metro area in a state has a lower bachelor’s degree attainment rate than the state itself. Often, these cities are the only major metro area in the state, and rank as the best educated by default. Providence, Rhode Island and Manchester, New Hampshire are two examples.


To identify the most educated city in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the percentages of metro area adults who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in every state. The bachelor’s degree attainment rate and high school diploma attainment rate, along with income and the percentage of households receiving SNAP benefits for metro areas and for states all came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey. Shares of each metro’s workforce employed in particular industries came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment figures are also from the BLS and are for July 2018. The number of postsecondary institutions in each metropolitan area came from the U.S. Department of Education. Postsecondary institutions include four-year and two-year universities and colleges, as well as technical institutes and trade academies. The Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area, which spans the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia, was excluded from the ranking.

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