Most Educated Cities in the US

Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful weapon to change the world. But not every city worldwide, or even in a country like the U.S., has the same education levels. In fact, some cities in America see 53.8% of residents completing graduate school while other U.S. cities just 0.9%. That’s a big gap.

So when it comes to the most educated cities in the US, the map below teaches us those with the highest percentage of graduate or professional degrees, cities where most people stop after their Bachelor’s, Associate’s, some college or high school, along with several more levels of education.

View Most Educated Cities in the US in a full screen map

The map’s educational attainment data comes from the recent U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. It describes the education level of those over the age of 25 in 630 cities, ranging from high school, Associate’s degrees, Bachelor’s, and beyond to conclude the US cities with the highest education rates. So let’s get learning which those are, including the #1 most educated city in the US (a hint: it’s in California).

Most Educated Cities in the US: Grad School Edition

Photo by Leon Wu on Unsplash

There are many levels of education: 9th-grade completion, high school graduation, and Bachelor of Arts. But the most educated cities in the US are those with the highest percentage of grad school graduates. The 10 cities below report between 37.6% to 53.8% of their population received graduate degrees:

  • Palo Alto, California – 53.8%
  • Newton, Massachusetts – 51.2%
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts – 50.3%
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan – 46.3%
  • Evanston, Illinois – 41.6%
  • Berkeley, California – 41.3%
  • Boulder, Colorado – 40.6%
  • Arlington, Virginia – 40.1%
  • Mountain View, California – 39.7%
  • Carmel, Indiana – 37.6%

Whether California is home to ample universities with professional programs or there’s just something in the water, there’s no doubt the Golden State gets an “A” in education. The most educated city in the US, Palo Alto, is located here, along with Berkeley (#6) and Mountain View (#9). Of course, many of these cities are near large and famous universities, including Stanford in Palo Alto and Berkeley, in, well… Berkeley. Additionally, Google is based in Mountain View and hires many PhDs. While the American average for graduate degrees is 13.8%, a total of 48 California cities fall above that, making CA one of the most educated states ranking.

On the opposite side of the country, Massachusetts’ top intelligent towns include Newton along with Cambridge, which is home to Harvard and MIT.

That leaves just half of the top 10 to be discussed, three of which are located in Midwestern states like Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Of course, many folks stop at a Bachelor’s degree, so let’s highlight them.

American Cities Without Graduate Degrees

As we previously mentioned, an average of 13.8% of people in American cities have graduate degrees. The following cities are well beneath that percentage, making them some of the least educated in the nation.

  • Lynwood, California – 0.9%
  • Camden, New Jersey – 1.3%
  • South Gate, California – 1.4%
  • Florence-Graham, California – 1.6%
  • Tulare, California – 1.6%
  • Cicero, Illinois – 1.8%
  • Paterson, New Jersey – 1.8%
  • East Los Angeles, California – 1.9%
  • El Monte, California – 2%
  • Pharr, Texas – 2.1%

While California the state was home to a few of the best educated locations, more than half of the cities above are located in California. The difference is that these are smaller, less-populated areas with historically low-income residents.

Five of the six rural Californian cities are located within 20 miles of one another, the same distance of previously-mentioned Illinois’s topmost educated city (Evanston) from lesser-so Cicero.

And of course, it has to be said that the Texan city of Pharr also happens to be far from a high rate of professional degree recipients. Regionally, only the Southeast is not represented by the least-educated cities above. However, it should be noted that several of these lesser cities have higher-than-average rates of other education levels.

Bachelor’s Degree Hubs

Finally, when it comes to being one degree removed from graduate education, the U.S. average is 21.87%. But where there’s an average, there are those that excel.

As was the case with graduate degrees, California is home to two of the country’s cities with a high percentage of Bachelor’s degrees: Redondo Beach (43.2%) and San Ramon (40.1%). Then there are three Georgian cities: Alpharetta (42.4%), Johns Creek (39.6%), and Sandy Springs (39.5%) with higher-than-average rates.

And ultimately, the following cities are just as notable:

  • Highlands Ranch, Colorado – 41.4%
  • Fishers, Indiana – 41.1%
  • Sammamish, Washington – 40.9%
  • Flower Mound, Texas – 40.3%
  • Mount Pleasant, South Carolina – 39.9%

For more maps on education, be sure to check out Does Education Influence Incarceration? and Map of Top Colleges in the US. Or get started with BatchGeo today.