The Most and Least Educated Cities in the United States by Educational Attainment

Written by Carly Hallman

What are the most and least educated cities in America? We’ve taken a deep look at 2017 census data on America’s metro areas for the populations ages 25 to 36 to find which city has the smartest people in terms of educational attainment. Many would assume that the most educated cities in America are huge cities like New York City, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C., but if that’s the case for you, our list might be a surprise! See for yourself which are the most highly educated cities in the U.S.

What Is the Smartest City in America?

If you take into consideration all four factors — the percent of people who have less than a high school diploma, the percent of high school graduates, the percent with some college, and the percent with a bachelor’s degree or more — then Corvallis, Oregon is the most educated city in the U.S. By weighing all four factors, we can judge every aspect of the population, not just focusing on those with college degrees. Corvallis is also ranked first for cities with at least a high school diploma and second for cities with the most people with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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The Most and Least Educated Cities in America, by Degree Attainment Transcript

Based on percentage of population aged 25 to 64

City Percent < HS Graduate Percent HS Graduate Percent Some College Percent Bachelor’s or Higher Education Index
Corvallis, OR 2.05 12.20 28.64 57.11 711.71
Ames, IA 2.12 14.92 27.33 55.63 704.34
Boulder, CO 4.74 10.12 20.92 64.22 699.97
Iowa City, IA 2.64 16.05 26.93 54.38 697.44
Ann Arbor, MI 3.92 14.90 25.18 55.99 691.42
Bozeman, MT 3.24 17.06 27.86 51.84 689.63
Fargo, ND-MN 3.59 17.03 36.80 42.58 683.02
Lawrence, KS 3.54 18.02 32.53 45.91 682.65
Madison, WI 3.82 18.47 29.58 48.13 680.55
Truckee-Grass Valley, CA 4.05 16.66 43.00 36.30 677.75
Bloomington, IL 2.55 23.77 28.06 45.62 676.66
Fort Collins, CO 4.81 18.18 27.80 49.21 674.45
Provo-Orem, UT 5.46 14.79 37.63 42.12 674.29
Missoula, MT 3.84 20.66 30.93 44.57 673.87
Champaign-Urbana, IL 4.10 20.48 31.84 43.59 671.95
Mankato-North Mankato, MN 3.53 22.32 36.18 37.98 669.42
Rochester, MN 3.79 22.71 31.98 41.53 668.24
Columbia, MO 5.15 19.87 27.46 47.52 667.43
Manhattan, KS 5.30 19.48 29.06 46.16 666.59
Pinehurst-Southern Pines, NC 4.93 20.10 32.11 42.85 666.38
Helena, MT 4.06 23.41 32.20 40.33 664.14
Colorado Springs, CO 5.40 19.29 36.02 39.29 663.25
Olympia-Tumwater, WA 4.53 21.63 38.31 35.52 662.56
Ithaca, NY 7.25 17.03 23.23 52.49 660.76
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 6.07 19.23 30.93 43.77 660.48

The Least Educated Cities in America

Geography Percent < HS Graduate Percent HS Graduate Percent Some College Percent Bachelor’s or Higher Education Index
Dalton, GA 35.70 30.82 20.00 13.48 404.69
Merced, CA 29.30 25.92 31.49 13.29 462.4
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 30.07 24.56 25.74 19.63 462.72
Visalia-Porterville, CA 28.41 28.48 28.97 14.15 463.49
Salinas, CA 30.77 21.93 24.97 22.33 464.77
Madera, CA 29.41 24.39 31.12 15.08 465.87
Brownsville-Harlingen, TX 28.31 28.41 24.74 18.54 466.31
Laredo, TX 26.53 32.22 23.10 18.15 470.46
Yakima, WA 27.34 26.55 28.97 17.14 476.97
Bakersfield, CA 26.09 29.31 29.28 15.32 478.99
Yuma, AZ 26.39 24.71 34.02 14.88 487.1
Hanford-Corcoran, CA 25.60 24.30 36.95 13.15 493
Palatka, FL 19.35 43.48 26.40 10.77 493.92
Houma-Thibodaux, LA 20.71 39.25 22.76 17.28 496.5
Fort Payne, AL 21.18 37.39 25.86 15.57 496.56
Hobbs, NM 21.67 34.49 31.23 12.61 498.27
Odessa, TX 23.08 29.68 32.81 14.43 499.71
Rome, GA 22.02 33.67 26.49 17.82 499.92
Moses Lake, WA 23.97 27.04 32.26 16.74 500.3
El Centro, CA 22.70 30.67 29.99 16.64 501.2
21. Opelousas, LA 18.79 41.51 24.43 15.28 504.53
Lumberton, NC 20.37 35.83 30.46 13.34 505.02
Gallup, NM 19.49 38.11 29.61 12.79 506
Guayama, PR 17.95 40.13 24.09 17.83 514.92
San Germán, PR 21.82 28.61 26.41 23.16 515.23

Cities With the Most People With a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher

Cities Percentage
Boulder, CO 64.22%
Corvallis, OR 57.11%
Ann Arbor, MI 55.99%
Armes, IA 55.63%
Iowa City, IA 54.38%
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 53.02%
Ithaca, NY 52.49%
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA 52.10%
Bozeman, MT 51.84%
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 51.79%

Cities With the Most People With At Least a High School Diploma

Cities Percentage
Corvallis, OR 97.95
Ames, IA 97.88
Bloomington, IL 97.45
Iowa City, IA 97.36
Bozeman, MT 96.76
Mankato-North Mankato, MN 96.47
Lawrence, KS 96.46
Fargo, ND-MN 96.41
Minot, ND 96.22
Rochester, MN 96.21

Cities With the Most People With Less than a High School Diploma

Cities Percentage
Dalton, GA 35.70%
Salinas, CA 30.77%
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 30.07%
Madera, CA 29.41%
Merced, CA 29.30%
Visalia-Porterville, CA 28.41%
Brownsville-Harlingen, TX 28.31%
Yakima, WA 27.34%
Laredo, TX 26.53%
Yuma, AZ 26.53%

Source:

https://factfinder.census.gov (2017 ACS 1-year estimates B23006: Educational Attainment by Employment Status for the Population 25 to 64 Years)

What Are the Top 10 Smartest Cities in the U.S.?

Using all four of our ranking factors, these are the most educated cities in the U.S.:

  1. Corvallis, OR — It has only 2.05% without a high school diploma, 12.20% with only a high school diploma, 28.64% with some college, and 57.11% with a bachelor’s degree or more.
  2. Ames, IA — In this city, 2.12% go without a high school diploma, 14.92% have a high school diploma, 27.33% have some college, and 55.63% have a bachelor’s degree or more.
  3. Boulder, CO — It has 4.74% without a high school diploma, 10.12% with a high school diploma, 20.92% with some college, and 64.22% with a bachelor’s degree or more.
  4. Iowa City, IA — Here, 2.64% go without a high school graduation, 16.05% have a high school diploma, 26.93% have some college, and 54.38% have a bachelor’s degree or more.
  5. Ann Arbor, MI — It has only 3.92% without a high school graduation, 14.90% with a high school diploma, 25.18% with some college, and 55.99% with a bachelor’s degree or more.
  6. Bozeman, MT — Only 3.24% do not have a high school diploma here, 17.06% have a high school diploma, 27.86% have some college, and 51.84% have a bachelor’s degree or more.
  7. Fargo, ND-MN — In this city, 3.59% of people have not completed high school. Meanwhile, 17.03% have a high school diploma, 36.80% have some college, and 42.58% have a bachelor’s degree or more.
  8. Lawrence, KS — In this city, 3.54% have not completed high school, 18.02% have a high school diploma, 32.53% have some college, and 45.91% have a bachelor’s or more.
  9. Madison, WI — 3.82% have not finished high school. Meanwhile, 18.47% have a high school diploma, 29.58% have some college, and 48.13% have a bachelor’s or more.
  10. Truckee-Grass Valley, CA — With 4.05% of the population going without a high school diploma, 16.66% have only a high school diploma, 43% have some college, and 36.30% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

What Is the Least Educated City in America?

The least educated city in America is Dalton, Georgia, which has the highest percentage of people with less than a high school diploma (35.70%). Dalton ranked the worst for having the lowest amount of people with at least some college (20%). Using our index of all four factors, it is the least educated city in the U.S. by a great deal.

What Are the Other Least Educated Cities in America?

Other least educated cities typically have a high percentage of those without any diploma as well as low percentages across the board for other factors:

  1. Dalton, GA — Of its citizens, 35.70% have gone without a high school diploma, and only 30.82% have a high school diploma, 20% have some college, and 13.48% have a bachelor’s degree.
  2. Merced, CA — In Merced, 29.30% have gone without a high school diploma, only 25.92% have a high school diploma, 31.49% have some college, and 13.29% have a bachelor’s degree or more.
  3. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX — In this area, 30.07% have gone without a high school diploma. Meanwhile, 24.56% have a high school diploma, 25.74% have some college, and 19.63% have a bachelor’s degree.
  4. Visalia-Porterville, CA — Here, 28.41% have gone without a high school diploma. Only 28.48% have a high school diploma, 28.97% have some college, and 14.15% have a bachelor’s degree.
  5. Salinas, CA — Here, 30.77% have gone without a high school diploma, only 21.93% have a high school diploma, 24.97% have some college, and 22.33% have a bachelor’s degree.

Which City Has the Most College Graduates?

The most educated city in America for college graduation is Boulder, Colorado, which boasts a percentage of people with bachelor’s degrees or higher of 64.22%! Next in line for most college-educated cities are Corvallis, OR (57.11%), Ann Arbor, MI (55.99%), Armes, IA (55.63%), and Iowa City, IA (54.38%).


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