Special Report

Most Educated Cities in the Country

Even before hundreds of thousands of students deferred college as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, enrollment in higher education in the U.S. had declined 11%, from 20.5 million in 2011 to 18.2 million in 2019. Reasons for this decline include rising tuition and a record-low streak of unemployment that encouraged would-be college students to enter the workforce instead. (This is the cost of college the year you were born.)

This decline came despite the fact college graduates typically earn higher wages. The median annual income for a full-time worker without a college education is $30,000, or $22,000 less than a full-time worker with a bachelor’s degree, according to recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Nationwide, 32.9% of the 25 and older population have a bachelor’s degree or higher, but the bachelor’s degree attainment rate varies considerably nationwide.

To find the most educated cities in the country, 24/7 Wall St. ranked metropolitan areas by the percentage of the 25 and older residents who have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Educational attainment rates, median household income, and population data are five-year estimates for 2020 and came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. April 2022 unemployment rates came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So where are the most educated metropolitan areas in the United States? They tend to be centered around universities, but not all of them have large populations. One of the most educated cities in the country is Corvallis, Oregon. The metro, home to Oregon State University, has a population of just 95,184. Ten of the most educated cities in the country have populations of fewer than 200,000. 

The share of adults over the age of 25 holding at least a bachelor’s degree in the metropolitan areas on the list ranges from 39% in Tallahassee, Florida, to 63% in Boulder, Colorado. California is home to four cities on the list, the most of any state. (Find out if any of these metros are among the cities where a college education pays off the most.)

Though 15 metro areas on the list have a median household income below the comparable national figure of $64,994, the rest have median incomes above the national median. In six metro areas, the median annual household income is above $90,000, including Boston, Bridgeport, and Washington D.C. 

The unemployment rate in 13 of these 50 most-educated cities is above the national unemployment rate of 3.6% in April 2022, the most recent estimates for metro areas. The rest of the metros have a lower unemployment rate.

At least 15 states do not have cities that are among the 50 most educated, including Ohio, the country’s seventh largest state by population. Two other high-population states that did not make the list are Arizona and Tennessee. 

Here is the most-educated city in the country

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