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The Most Educated Places in America

The Most Educated Places in America

by on July 25, 2014

Certain cities in the U.S. have populations with higher levels of educational attainment than others. This often depends on what prominent industries are located in these places—cities that offer more technical occupational opportunities tend to draw more skilled and educated members of the labor force.

NerdWallet crunched the numbers to find the most educated places in America. We looked at increasing levels of educational attainment among the populations of 1,990 places across the U.S., from residents with at least a high school diploma to those with a doctorate or professional degree. We weighted high school and college education more heavily than the other factors because only approximately 30% of Americans 25 years and older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, whereas nearly 87% of the country’s population are at least high school graduates.

We calculated the overall score for each place by weighting the following factors:

  1. Percentage of population with at least a high school diploma or associate’s degree: 40% of the overall score.
  2. Percentage of population with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30% of the overall score.
  3. Percentage of population with a master’s degree: 10% of the overall score.
  4. Percentage of population with a doctorate degree: 10% of the overall score.
  5. Percentage of population with a professional degree: 10% of the overall score.

For more information on how affordable it is to live in each of these places, check out NerdWallet’s cost of living calculator. For similar studies and more, visit NerdWallet Cities.

Trends and Takeaways:

  • Massachusetts and Maryland are both highly educated states — these two states take up seven of the top 10 spots on our list.
  • Many of these places are cities with universities, which attract educated residents as well as contribute to the education of current residents.


1. Bethesda, Maryland

In this city in the Washington, D.C., metro area, 83% of residents over 25 have a bachelor’s degree — that’s 50% more than the national average of around 30% — and over half of residents also have a master’s degree. A big reason for all of the higher education: The area is rich in biomedical jobs at the headquarters of the National Institutes of Health.

2. Potomac, Maryland

A whopping 88% of residents are high school graduates in Potomac, one of three Maryland cities in our top 10. Meanwhile, 1 in 10 residents in this city have a doctorate and almost half have earned their master’s degrees. The city’s proximity to Washington, D.C., allows workers to commute to jobs in the capital. Nearby Montgomery College provides classes and training for students at its Workforce Development & Continuing Education program.

3. Wellesley, Massachusetts

Almost 90% of Wellesley’s residents have a high school diploma, and 83% have a bachelor’s degree. As the home of Wellesley College and Babson College as well as the highly regarded Wellesley public school system, it’s clear that education is a top priority in this city.

4. Brookline, Massachusetts

Brookline’s residents are highly educated, with almost half holding a master’s degree. Brookline is near several colleges — Newbury College, Boston College and Boston University ­— that do their part to enrich the community through programs like Boston College Neighborhood Center.

5. Palo Alto, California

As the home of Stanford University and part of Silicon Valley, it’s no surprise that Palo Alto boasts highly educated residents. Almost 80% of residents over 25 are college graduates, and over half also have a master’s degree. Palo Alto Unified School District is known for its top-performing public schools.

6. Newton, Massachusetts

In this city, 87% of the population has graduated from high school, and over 75% hold a bachelor’s degree. The city’s public school system earned a 9 out of 10 rating by GreatSchools, a nationwide nonprofit that rates public school systems. Newton is home to several universities and colleges, including Andover Newton Theological School, Boston College Law School and Hebrew College.

7. Lexington, Massachusetts

Almost half of Lexington’s residents hold a master’s degree. In the city where 83% of residents are high school graduates, a full 50% more than the U. S. average of around 30%, the public schools earned a GreatSchools rating of 9 out of 10. The city itself provides an education in U.S. history for tourists and residents alike: it was the site of the first shot of the American Revolutionary War.

8. Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Higher education is a focal point in Chapel Hill, home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and part of the Research Triangle. Almost 80% of residents hold a high school diploma, and 3 out of 4 residents have a bachelor’s degree as well.

9. Upper Arlington, Ohio

The only city in the Midwest to crack the top 10, Upper Arlington has an incredible high school graduation rate, with 91% of the population over 25 earning their diplomas. The nearby Ohio State University Extension helps develop and engage the community through outreach programs, which helps support the work of the city’s top-notch public schools.

10. North Bethesda, Maryland

This census-designated place is just miles from Washington, D.C., making the suburb a hub for educated residents working in the city. In North Bethesda, 86% of residents have a high school diploma, and 71% have a bachelor’s degree as well.

 

Top 100 Most Educated Places in America 

Rank City High School Diploma/Associate Degree or Higher Bachelor’s Degree or Higher Master’s Degree Doctorate Degree Professional Degree Overall Score
1 Bethesda, Maryland 87.72% 83.19% 53.96% 10.93% 16.01% 91.37
2 Potomac, Maryland 87.85% 79.49% 49.98% 9.39% 15.54% 88.07
3 Wellesley, Massachusetts 89.75% 82.72% 49.70% 8.23% 12.80% 87.94
4 Brookline, Massachusetts 82.75% 78.54% 49.40% 13.15% 12.24% 84.81
5 Palo Alto, California 83.07% 79.58% 51.34% 14.09% 9.12% 84.39
6 Newton, Massachusetts 87.05% 75.46% 49.20% 9.96% 11.74% 83.92
7 Lexington, Massachusetts 83.41% 75.66% 48.53% 13.24% 7.61% 81.14
8 Chapel Hill, North Carolina 79.77% 74.04% 47.52% 14.75% 8.57% 79.67
9 Upper Arlington, Ohio 91.41% 72.75% 32.67% 7.31% 9.43% 79.40
10 North Bethesda, Maryland 86.26% 70.88% 40.51% 8.98% 9.52% 78.11
11 Davis, California 82.43% 70.87% 39.90% 13.34% 8.92% 78.03
12 Cambridge, Massachusetts 82.09% 74.25% 44.60% 11.95% 6.62% 77.64
13 Shaker Heights, Ohio 89.18% 64.79% 38.64% 6.90% 11.84% 77.42
14 Northbrook, Illinois 94.55% 68.40% 31.24% 2.63% 10.81% 77.34
15 Cupertino, California 89.26% 74.95% 40.98% 6.87% 3.49% 76.45
16 Manhattan Beach, California 94.04% 73.23% 29.75% 3.06% 6.87% 76.35
17 Ann Arbor, Michigan 86.15% 69.35% 40.25% 9.84% 6.41% 76.03
18 Boulder, Colorado 86.91% 71.27% 36.71% 8.77% 5.67% 75.41
19 Arlington, Virginia 88.73% 70.97% 37.29% 3.75% 8.96% 75.40
20 Vestavia Hills, Alabama 94.21% 67.96% 29.45% 4.05% 7.09% 75.21
21 West Lafayette, Indiana 81.28% 69.02% 40.54% 15.75% 3.45% 74.88
22 Oak Park, Illinois 90.93% 66.43% 35.16% 5.44% 7.46% 74.80
23 Webster Groves, Missouri 92.52% 65.97% 32.81% 4.97% 7.01% 74.59
24 Catalina Foothills, Arizona 91.59% 61.81% 32.47% 6.27% 8.80% 74.35
25 Edina, Minnesota 95.64% 67.18% 27.45% 1.94% 7.37% 74.26
26 Coral Gables, Florida 89.75% 62.67% 31.61% 4.96% 11.43% 74.19
27 Berkeley, California 86.03% 68.40% 37.06% 8.68% 5.94% 73.98
28 Brentwood, Tennessee 95.19% 68.26% 24.16% 3.04% 6.44% 73.89
29 Newport Beach, California 95.33% 64.95% 26.20% 2.72% 7.82% 73.79
30 Evanston, Illinois 85.89% 66.15% 37.56% 8.17% 6.36% 73.09
31 Hoboken, New Jersey 89.84% 73.94% 27.76% 2.86% 5.72% 72.82
32 Chesterfield, Missouri 93.94% 64.41% 28.28% 3.51% 6.54% 72.82
33 Westfield, New Jersey 92.58% 65.27% 27.38% 3.54% 7.31% 72.64
34 Santa Monica, California 90.96% 64.49% 28.62% 4.03% 8.27% 72.49
35 Irvine, California 92.08% 65.72% 27.79% 4.59% 6.05% 72.45
36 Menlo Park, California 83.86% 67.76% 37.03% 7.74% 6.51% 72.17
37 Reston, Virginia 92.30% 66.65% 30.25% 3.93% 4.69% 72.13
38 Ellicott City, Maryland 90.37% 65.58% 31.57% 5.70% 4.97% 72.08
39 Beverly Hills, California 89.97% 60.33% 27.64% 4.63% 10.50% 71.93
40 Syosset, New York 93.72% 64.48% 30.20% 1.37% 6.72% 71.82
41 South Pasadena, California 90.61% 60.65% 29.70% 5.38% 7.96% 71.72
42 Wildwood, Missouri 94.28% 64.76% 25.26% 3.16% 5.00% 71.41
43 Towson, Maryland 89.79% 61.56% 32.22% 5.07% 7.21% 71.35
44 Naperville, Illinois 92.83% 66.24% 29.31% 3.23% 4.07% 71.28
45 Oakton, Virginia 87.40% 66.08% 35.95% 4.85% 5.83% 71.25
46 Danville, California 94.66% 64.56% 26.31% 3.07% 4.26% 71.25
47 Olney, Maryland 91.83% 62.86% 28.36% 4.05% 6.17% 71.07
48 Rockville, Maryland 83.30% 61.44% 35.87% 9.39% 7.60% 70.99
49 Ithaca, New York 82.04% 67.68% 38.87% 10.73% 2.84% 70.97
50 West Hartford, Connecticut 89.56% 58.43% 31.24% 4.26% 9.50% 70.77
51 Arlington, Massachusetts 86.43% 64.82% 34.83% 8.53% 3.27% 70.72
52 Walnut Creek, California 94.03% 61.66% 25.72% 3.29% 5.39% 70.52
53 Merrick, New York 95.34% 57.37% 28.94% 1.15% 7.80% 70.48
54 Glenview, Illinois 92.89% 60.69% 27.01% 2.26% 7.67% 70.46
55 Weston, Florida 94.34% 58.70% 26.78% 2.46% 6.84% 70.18
56 Brighton, New York 88.17% 59.89% 33.20% 5.49% 7.09% 70.11
57 Ames, Iowa 87.99% 63.87% 27.37% 9.61% 2.39% 70.08
58 Columbia, Maryland 89.16% 63.06% 31.58% 5.20% 4.93% 70.07
59 San Ramon, California 93.68% 62.92% 24.62% 3.53% 3.94% 69.82
60 Coppell, Texas 95.71% 62.30% 23.08% 1.55% 4.43% 69.59
61 Iowa City, Iowa 86.52% 57.75% 31.25% 8.65% 6.27% 69.44
62 Foster City, California 91.81% 60.91% 28.93% 4.32% 4.26% 69.42
63 Kirkwood, Missouri 93.60% 61.18% 25.24% 2.97% 4.78% 69.40
64 Dix Hills, New York 91.17% 57.37% 28.49% 2.69% 8.35% 69.15
65 Buffalo Grove, Illinois 93.68% 61.17% 26.10% 2.39% 4.07% 68.80
66 Pikesville, Maryland 90.73% 54.59% 27.17% 4.58% 8.28% 68.76
67 Auburn, Alabama 86.28% 60.53% 30.18% 8.77% 3.89% 68.71
68 Burke, Virginia 93.21% 60.33% 29.56% 1.98% 3.83% 68.43
69 Plainview, New York 95.00% 55.07% 27.65% 0.85% 6.77% 68.33
70 Libertyville, Illinois 92.68% 61.55% 25.73% 3.14% 3.31% 68.26
71 Ridgeland, Mississippi 92.69% 52.09% 25.66% 3.02% 8.85% 68.12
72 Northampton, Massachusetts 86.51% 56.03% 32.33% 7.01% 6.51% 68.09
73 Bellevue, Washington 92.36% 61.08% 25.14% 2.91% 3.88% 67.99
74 Alexandria, Virginia 88.01% 60.46% 30.25% 3.12% 6.77% 67.97
75 Dunwoody, Georgia 90.71% 63.04% 24.98% 2.41% 4.78% 67.91
76 Park Ridge, Illinois 94.49% 55.84% 23.80% 1.38% 6.63% 67.84
77 Highlands Ranch, Colorado 96.21% 60.04% 20.63% 2.05% 2.65% 67.81
78 Brookfield, Wisconsin 95.13% 55.38% 20.76% 1.71% 6.68% 67.74
79 Johns Creek, Georgia 93.78% 62.65% 23.16% 1.77% 2.75% 67.65
80 Palmetto Bay, Florida 88.19% 55.41% 28.03% 4.90% 7.81% 67.58
81 Claremont, California 85.16% 57.81% 30.37% 8.49% 4.99% 67.55
82 Haslett, Michigan 91.61% 56.13% 25.99% 4.83% 4.46% 67.43
83 The Woodlands, Texas 94.65% 58.86% 19.77% 2.57% 3.94% 67.39
84 Eden Prairie, Minnesota 94.53% 59.71% 20.59% 1.92% 3.97% 67.39
85 Mount Pleasant, South Carolina 95.19% 58.56% 20.17% 1.95% 4.09% 67.39
86 Redmond, Washington 93.28% 59.94% 26.84% 3.34% 1.52% 67.24
87 Granite Bay, California 92.54% 54.47% 22.43% 3.91% 6.22% 67.24
88 Fishers, Indiana 95.09% 59.47% 18.80% 2.02% 3.72% 67.22
89 Redondo Beach, California 92.40% 58.46% 22.99% 2.74% 4.92% 67.18
90 Ashburn, Virginia 94.76% 60.49% 25.58% 1.39% 1.93% 67.14
91 Rocky River, Ohio 92.54% 58.83% 20.69% 2.71% 5.09% 67.06
92 Wheaton, Illinois 92.65% 59.57% 24.63% 2.33% 3.72% 67.03
93 Cary, North Carolina 90.79% 60.44% 24.59% 4.04% 2.86% 66.76
94 Ilchester, Maryland 92.40% 55.72% 27.53% 2.90% 4.34% 66.74
95 Mountain View, California 83.24% 61.73% 32.14% 7.35% 3.72% 66.65
96 Woodbury, Minnesota 94.97% 56.74% 19.80% 2.60% 3.56% 66.58
97 Belmont, California 91.75% 56.39% 24.91% 3.79% 4.18% 66.57
98 Winter Park, Florida 92.59% 52.95% 23.46% 2.81% 6.75% 66.52
99 East Honolulu, Hawaii 92.36% 52.58% 23.03% 3.71% 6.32% 66.47
100 Overland Park, Kansas 94.89% 57.39% 20.90% 1.85% 3.45% 66.44

Educational attainment data for population 25 and over is from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.


Graduates image via Shutterstock.

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  • Erin Schwartz

    Funny how all the Massachusetts communities on the list are hardcore liberal areas that favor increasing federal spending at unsustainable levels and oppose fiscal responsibility. I guess the voters in these cities and towns didn’t learn much mathematics in high school, college, or graduate school.

    • Iris

      Or maybe it’s not a coincidence that the most educated parts of the country are also the most liberal. It means they’ve opened a history textbook and learned something about the world, and that education is a worthwhile thing to invest in because these educated communities are also very wealthy and safe.

    • koolkat_1960

      Sad to see someone with the last name Schwartz appear to be such an ignorant teabagger.

  • Andrew

    Yeah, we should spend trillions to kill people in foreign lands, but not spend on education because it’s “unsustainable.” It’s not funny they made this list- this is the result of those “liberal policies” bearing fruit. Too bad other states aren’t willing to take education as seriously!

  • Brian

    I’m trying to figure out how they actually calculated the overall scores. Using those weightings multiplied times the factors doesn’t seem to add up. Has anyone else tried to replicate their math? (Use the first one, Bethesda, as the test example — how do they get a score of 91.37?)

  • jalo12

    GEE HOW COME TERRYVILLE DID NOT MAKE THE LIST