Education matters. The federal government and many researchers examine American income, health, poverty levels, housing and mobility based on what level of education people have attained. Usually, the levels are those who have not graduated high school, who graduated high school, with some college, with a bachelor’s degree and who have a degree beyond college. It is nearly a rule that, at the very least, income rises with educational attainment. Something else is clear. Where people live often has a great deal to do with how well educated they are.
Nationwide, an estimated 32.1% of American adults 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Across the United States, however, there are towns where over 80% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Using education data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most educated town in the United States. To do so, we defined towns as any place covered by the Census Bureau within the 50 states and the District of Columbia with a population of at least 1,000 people and less than 25,000 people.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate among adults with a four-year college education was 5.5% in 2020. Meanwhile, the jobless rate among those with no more than a high school diploma was 9.0%.
In most of the towns on this list, the five-year average unemployment rate is lower than the comparable national rate of 5.3%. In addition to being better protected from unemployment, Americans with a bachelor’s degree also tend to have higher salaries. The average weekly wage for a college-educated worker in the United States is about 67% higher than it is for those with no more than a high school diploma. And in places with well-educated populations, incomes also tend to be higher than average.
The best-educated town in America is Stanford, California. Here are the details:
- Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 93.6%
- Adults with a graduate or professional degree: 58.0% (eighth highest)
- Median household income: $58,906 (4,964th highest)
- Estimated unemployment rate 2015-2019: 4.7% (tied for 5,328th lowest)
- Population: 16,326
Methodology: To determine America’s most educated town, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of the percentage of adults 25 years and over with at least a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey (ACS).
We used census “place” geographies, a category that includes 29,573 incorporated legal entities and census-designated statistical entities. We only considered the 29,320 places that had boundaries that fell within one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia.
We defined towns based on population thresholds mentioned above, and 13,332 of the places fell within these thresholds.
Towns were then excluded if bachelor’s degree or higher attainment rates were not available in the 2019 ACS, if the town’s 25 and older population was less than 1,000, or if the sampling error associated with a town’s data was deemed too high.
The sampling error was defined as too high if the coefficient of variation (a statistical assessment of how reliable an estimate is) for a town’s bachelor’s degree or higher attainment rate was above 15% and greater than two standard deviations above the mean coefficient of variation for all towns’ bachelor’s degree or higher attainment rate. We similarly excluded towns that had a sampling error too high for their 25 and over population estimates, using the same definition.
The remaining 10,738 places were ranked based on the share of adults 25 years and over with at least a bachelor’s degree.
Additional information on the share of adults 25 years and over who have a graduate or professional degree, median household income, unemployment rates for the 16 and older population in the civilian labor force and population figures are also five-year estimates from the 2019 ACS.
Click here to see all the best-educated towns in America.
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