Special Report

The Most Educated City in Every State

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Alabama: Auburn-Opelika
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 41.4% (state: 26.3%)
> Median household income: $53,712 (state: $51,734)
> Number of college and universities: 1

The Auburn-Opelika metro area is home to Auburn University, the second largest higher learning institution in Alabama with an enrollment of nearly 25,000. Such a large university requires many college-educated workers and is likely a major reason for the area’s high share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree, at 41.4%. To compare, 26.3% of adults across Alabama and 33.1% of adults nationwide hold at least a bachelor’s degree.

Applicants with a college degree are often more suitable as well as more desirable to a larger range of jobs, and areas with higher education attainment rates often have lower unemployment. Similarly, the area’s median household income is nearly $2,000 higher than the median income statewide.

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Alaska: Fairbanks
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 33.3% (state: 30.2%)
> Median household income: $72,065 (state: $75,463)
> Number of college and universities: 2

Of Alaska’s two metro areas, Fairbanks has the more educated population with a third of adults holding at least a bachelor’s degree, narrowly edging out Anchorage and its 33.1% bachelor’s degree attainment rate. The University of Alaska Fairbanks had more than 8,000 students enrolled in 2019 between its main campus and its Community and Technical College — 12% of whom were enrolled in graduate programs.

Unlike most other states, Alaska’s most educated city does not have especially high incomes compared to the state as a whole. In fact, the median household income in Fairbanks is over $3,000 below Alaska’s median household income.

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Arizona: Flagstaff
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 39.6% (state: 30.2%)
> Median household income: $58,085 (state: $62,055)
> Number of college and universities: 4

Areas with high educational attainment often have lower than average unemployment. However, Flagstaff — the most educated metro area in Arizona with a bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 39.6% — is an exception. The city’s July unemployment rate of 13.2% is higher than the state jobless rate of 10.6% and the national rate of 10.2%. Largely due to reasons tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment rates are more than double what they were at the same time a year ago.

The median annual household income in Flagstaff is lower than the state’s median of $62,055, which is itself lower than the national median of $65,712.

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Arkansas: Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 33% (state: 23.3%)
> Median household income: $61,674 (state: $48,952)
> Number of college and universities: 10

Just 23.3% of adults in Arkansas have a bachelor’s degree, one of the smallest shares of any state. In Fayetteville, the most educated metro area in the state, 33.1% of adults have at least a four-year college degree, in line with the 33.1% of adults who do nationwide.

Incomes tend to rise with educational attainment levels, and in Fayetteville, the typical household earns $61,674 a year — less than the national median household income of $65,712 but well above the statewide median of $48,952.

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California: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 52.7% (state: 35.0%)
> Median household income: $130,865 (state: $80,440)
> Number of college and universities: 26

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara is one of only seven metro areas in the United States where more than half of adults hold at least a bachelor’s degree. The high educational attainment is likely related to the composition of the area’s job market. The metro area covers much of Silicon Valley, a tech hub home to companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google. The high educational attainment and a large tech sector help drive the high median household income in San Jose.

The typical San Jose household has an income of $130,865 a year, the highest of any metro area in the country and more than twice the national median of $65,712.