Special Report

Cities Where a College Education Pays Off the Most


To determine the cities where a college education pays off the most 24/7 Tempo reviewed five-year data on earnings by educational attainment from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. Metropolitan statistical areas were ranked based on the raw difference in median earnings for workers 25 years and older with a bachelor’s degree and the median earnings for workers 25 years and older with a high school diploma. Data on the percentage of adults 25 and over with at least a bachelor’s degree also came from the 2020 ACS and are five-year estimates. Data on the most concentrated job requiring a bachelor’s degree came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2021 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program, and was calculated using the location quotient, a ratio comparing the share of workers in a specific occupation as a share of all workers in a metro area relative to the share of workers nationwide in the same occupation. Only detailed occupations in which the typical educational entry requirement is a bachelor’s degree or higher were considered. Data on typical educational entry requirements came from the BLS Employment Projections program and are for 2020.

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