Smartest Cities in the US

By PropertyClub Team
Apr 19th 2024
In the United States, having a higher level of education typically translates to a higher salary. Workers with bachelor's degrees earn around 68% more than those with just a high school diploma. As a result, cities with more educated workforces are able to drive greater innovation and generate more tax revenue. The allure of having a smarter workforce also attracts major companies, in turn attracting even more highly educated residents. But which US cities boast the highest levels of education? Let's explore some of the smartest US cities.

hash-mark15 Smartest Cities in the US

  1. Anne Arbor, Michigan
  2. Arlington, Virginia
  3. Boulder, Colorado,
  4. Irvine, California
  5. Seattle, Washington
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. Scottsdale, Arizona
  8. San Francisco, California
  9. Madison, Wisconsin
  10. Atlanta, Georgia
  11. Austin, Texas
  12. Durham, North Carolina 
  13. Boston, Massachusetts
  14. Raleigh, North Carolina
  15. Charlotte, North Carolina

hash-mark1. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan, is known as the smartest city in the U.S. with a high education level, as 77.5% of its residents have at least a Bachelor's degree. It's home to the University of Michigan, which plays a big role in the city's economy by employing around 30,000 people, including 12,000 at its medical center.

hash-mark2. Arlington, Virginia

Arlington, Virginia is known as the second smartest city in the U.S, just after Ann Arbor. About 76.8% of its residents have a Bachelor's degree or higher. The county is home to several colleges and universities, such as Marymount University and George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School. 

Arlington is also famous for being the location of The Pentagon, the world's second-largest office structure, where the U.S. Department of Defense has its headquarters.

hash-mark3. Boulder, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado, ranked third on our list of smartest cities in the United States. About 76.6% of its people have at least a Bachelor's degree. It's a college town with the biggest campus of the University of Colorado and over 20 research institutes.

hash-mark4. Irvine, California 

Irvine, California, is another smart city in the U.S. It's home to many universities like the University of California, Irvine, Concordia University, Irvine Valley College, and more. People in Irvine are well-educated, with 70.0% having a Bachelor's degree or higher. The city also has branches of California State University, Fullerton, University of La Verne, and Pepperdine University.

hash-mark5. Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington, is a smart city in the U.S. with a high level of education. About 66.7% of the people hold a Bachelor's degree or higher, which is more than the national average. Moreover, a significant 91.9% of the population has a high school diploma or equivalent, surpassing the national average of 84.5%. 

The city is proud to host the University of Washington, and it also houses the university's professional and continuing education unit, known as the University of Washington Educational Outreach.

hash-mark6. Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. is the sixth smart city in the U.S., known for its high level of education with 62.6% of people holding a Bachelor's degree or higher. It is home to The University of the District of Columbia (UDC), contributing to the city's academic atmosphere. 

Additionally, Washington, D.C. boasts three medical schools and their teaching hospitals affiliated with George Washington, Georgetown, and Howard universities, emphasizing the city's role in healthcare education and research.

hash-mark7. Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale, Arizona, is a fast-growing city in the United States. Over the past two decades, it has seen rapid development and is considered one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. 

Scottsdale is home to several higher education institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, University of Phoenix, Gateway Seminary, and the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. A notable aspect is that 61.3% of the residents hold a bachelor's degree or higher, reflecting a strong emphasis on education in the community.

hash-mark8. San Francisco, California 

San Francisco, California, is a smart US city known for its high education levels, with 59.8% of residents holding a Bachelor's degree or higher. It's home to major tech companies like Google, Apple, Salesforce, Twitter, and Uber, contributing to its reputation as a hub for innovation. The city boasts renowned universities such as Stanford, UC Berkeley, and San Francisco State, further enhancing its status as a center for learning. 

hash-mark9. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin, is a vibrant city known for its friendly atmosphere and diverse cultural scene. Home to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the city boasts a well-educated population, with 58.9% holding a Bachelor's degree or higher. 

The university, the largest employer in the state, plays a crucial role in shaping the local economy, culture, and demographics. Madison's charm extends beyond academics, offering residents and visitors a mix of beautiful lakes, parks, and a lively downtown. 

hash-mark10. Atlanta, Georgia 

Atlanta, Georgia, grabs the 10th spot on our smart cities list. More than half of the folks here, about 57.3%, hold a Bachelor's degree or more. In Atlanta Public Schools, a big bunch of around 49,000 students are studying across 106 schools. 

If you're into business smarts, the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business has a campus in Atlanta's Buckhead district. So, Atlanta's not just peachy; it's brainy too!

hash-mark11. Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas, is next on our list of smartest US cities, with over half of its residents (56.5%) holding a Bachelor's degree or higher. Big companies like BAE Systems, IBM, and NXP Semiconductors have set up shop in Austin, adding to its reputation as a tech hub. 

The city is also home to the University of Texas at Austin, one of the largest universities in the U.S., boasting a student population of over 50,000.

hash-mark12. Durham, North Carolina 

Durham, North Carolina is another smart city in the United States with 53.8% of residents having a Bachelor’s or higher degree. It's got famous universities like Duke, North Carolina Central, and UNC-Chapel Hill where lots of smart people go to study. 

More than half of the people here have a Bachelor's degree or even higher! Duke University and its health system are the big bosses in town, employing loads of people and making Durham a bustling place.

hash-mark13. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts, is a smart city in the United States, known for its focus on education. In the 21st century, Boston has become a global leader in higher education and research. Over half of its residents (53.4%) hold a Bachelor's degree or higher, showcasing the city's commitment to learning. 

The area is home to renowned institutions like Harvard and MIT in nearby Cambridge, as well as Boston University and Northeastern University in the city itself.

hash-mark14. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina, is the penultimate city on our list of smartest cities in the United States, with a whopping 52.7% of residents holding a Bachelor's degree or higher. This vibrant city is home to North Carolina State University, a hub of education and innovation. 

Raleigh is also part of the Research Triangle, joining forces with Durham and Chapel Hill to create a dynamic region known for its thriving technology, research, and academic communities.

hash-mark15. Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina, wraps up our list of smartest cities in the United States with 46.6% of folks holding a Bachelor's degree or higher. UNC Charlotte, the city's biggest university, plays a significant role in education. Additionally, Pfeiffer University has a satellite campus in Charlotte, contributing to the city's diverse educational opportunities.


Smartest US Cities Methodology

The top cities on our list boast the highest proportions of college graduates. Additionally, they take into account factors such as high school dropout rates, rates of graduate degree attainment, and disparities in degree completion based on gender and race.