The Most Educated Cities In America

Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Georgia, and the cityscape skyline of urban city skyscrapers downtown, Lake Clara Meer

Arlington, Virginia is the most educated city in America, according to a new study.

Forbes ranked the top 100 largest cities in the nation across factors such as highest concentrations of college graduates, dropout rates, and gender and racial disparities to determine the most educated cities.

THE SMARTEST CITY IN AMERICA

Arlington, a 20-minute drive from Washington, DC, ranked as the smartest city in the U.S. with the highest bachelor’s completion rate of over 76% among adults 25 and older. That’s almost five times higher than the completion rate of San Bernadino, California, where only 14% complete a bachelor’s program. Additionally, nearly 42% of Arlington residents hold a graduate degree—the highest in the nation.

While Arlington ranked highly for its degree completion rate, the city reported a substantial racial gap in bachelor’s degree attainment, with just 10.5% of non-white degree holders. Fremont, California in the Bay Area had the lowest racial gap in education.

ATLANTA RANKS NUMBER TWO

With major colleges like Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University, Atlanta ranks the second most educated city in the U.S. The capital of Georgia has nearly 60% of its residents holding a bachelor’s degree and over 25% with a graduate degree. Atlanta also has a relatively low high school dropout rate at 7%.

Similar to Arlington, however, Atlanta also reports a wide racial gap in bachelor’s degree attainment.

TEXAS: GENDER GAP NEARLY NONEXISTENT

Austin, Texas made the top five for most educated cities in the nation. The Texas capital boasts around 60% of adults ages 25 and older who hold bachelor’s degrees, and approximately 22% who hold graduate degrees.

Where the Lone Star State really shines, however, is its low gender disparity. Five cities in Texas (Garland, Lubbock, Houston, Austin, and Irving) all made the top 10 in the nation with nearly nonexistent gender gaps.

METHODOLOGY

To determine the most educated cities in the U.S., Forbes Education collected education metrics for the 100 largest cities in the nation using data from the Census Bureau’s 2021 American Communities Survey.

* Metrics included the following:

* High school dropout rate: Percentage of adults age 18 and older without a high school diploma

* The percentage of adults age 25 and older with some college, but no degree

* The undergraduate college completion rate: Percentage of adults age 25 and older without a bachelor’s degree or higher

* Percentage of adults age 25 and older with an advanced degree

Additionally, Forbes accounted for educational equity using two lower-weighted metrics: racial college completion gap and gender college completion gap. The racial gap was calculated by subtracting the college completion rate for all students from the college completion rate specifically for white students, revealing the areas where non-white students encountered the most significant barriers. The gender gap was determined by calculating the absolute difference between male and female graduation rates in each city.

Sources: Forbes, United States Census Bureau

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