Ann Arbor Tops Most Educated City List, Colorado Perplexes


With the fall semester about to begin, WalletHub has determined where the most educated — and least educated — Americans are living.

WalletHub compared 150 of the largest US metropolitan statistical areas across nine key metrics. The data set ranges from the percentage of adults aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher to the attainment gap between women and men. Data for the rankings was collected from the US Census Bureau, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics,, and US News & World Report.

WalletHub’s Richie Bernardo writes that those with more schooling have the opportunity to find better jobs and bigger salaries, but they also benefit the cities in which they live by contributing the most tax dollars over time, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

States with workers who are the least educated have a median wage of $15 an hour compared to $19 to $20 an hour in states where 40% or more of the workers hold at least a bachelor’s degree. This has states working to maximize the appeal of their cities to attract more college graduates.

The Detroit News was quick to publish the fact that Ann Arbor, according to the study, is the most educated city in the US out of the 150 communities analyzed. The staff did recognize the other top-five cities, which included Washington, D.C.; Madison, Wisconsin; Provo, Utah; and Colorado Springs, Colorado. The paper added that another Michigan municipality ranked eighth, Lansing.

Ann Arbor is the home of the University of Michigan and had the highest number of bachelor’s degree holders, graduate or professional degree holders, and adults with some college or an associate’s degree. Ann Arbor shared the first-place ranking with Madison for the highest percentage of high school diploma holders.

Visalia, California, ranked at 149th, and the percentage of bachelor’s degree holders age 25 and older in Ann Arbor is four times higher than in Visilia. The percentage of graduate and professional degree holders age 25 and older in Ann Arbor is six times higher than Brownsville, Texas, which came in at last place.

There is evidence which suggests a relationship between the caliber of public school education and the amount of funding, which means that the wealthier the community, the better the public schools.  And other research suggests that certain wealthy areas have created “gated communities” through the use of public policies and zoning that keeps poorer members of the community out, writes Catey Hill of MarketWatch.

The next five highest educated cities were: #6, Seattle, Washington; #7, Boston, Massachusetts; #8, Lansing, Michigan; #9, Minneapolis, Minnesota; #10, Raleigh, North Carolina.

The ten least educated cities in the US, according to the study, are: Fresno, California; Lafayette, Louisiana; Hickory, North Carolina; Modesto, California; Lakeland, Florida; Beaumont, Texas; McAllen, Texas; Bakersfield, California; Visalia, California; Brownsville, Texas.

Metro-Denver received a score of 9 out of 150 for its education level, but it scored 119 out of 150 for its school quality and enrollment levels, which seems to say that Denver’s school system is lacking even though there are many well-educated people living in Colorado. Colorado has a high number of well-educated workers, but few have been educated within state borders.

State officials and educators call this the “Colorado Paradox,” reports Caitlin Hendee, writing for the Denver Business Journal.

“If we’re going to continue to be an innovation economy, we can’t do that without having a local talent pipeline,” said Angela Baber, Colorado Education Initiative’s STEM director. “If we’re not prepping [kids] for our high-wage jobs, we’re not preparing them for the opportunities our economy offers.”

Colorado Springs, however, not only came in 4th for its education level, but scored at 47 for its quality of education and enrollment.