America’s Smartest Cities

How it works: A website called The Daily Beast ranked metropolitan areas, being cities and their suburbs, of 1 million people or more, using Census data. The total list ended up at 55 cities. All data was then organized on a per-capita basis, so that a resident of Norfolk and New York had equal weight. This allowed the poll to truly determine the smartest cities, not simply the biggest.

Next, the “smarts” of a city were truly tested. The criteria was divided into two halves: half for education, and half for intellectual environment. The education half accounted for the percent of residents had college degrees, 35% of the weight for bachelors degrees and 15% for graduate degrees. No credit was given for “some college” or “some grad school,” only complete degrees. The intellectual environmental half had three subparts. First, nonfiction book sales (25 percent), as tracked by Nielsen ratings. The next influencer was the ratio of universities that lie within the cities bountries (15 percent). They felt that, differing from just measuring college degrees, this acknowledges that universities don’t just churn out diplomas, but also drive the intellectual vigor of cities. The final weight went to political engagement, as studies have linked intelligence and political activity. So this influence was determined by the percentage of eligible voters who cast ballots in the last presidential election (10 percent). 

And the results, the top ten smartest cities in the country are…

  1. Raleigh-Durham, NC
  2. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA
  3. Boston, MA
  4. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
  5. Denver, CO (shout-out!!)
  6. Hartford-New Haven, CT
  7. Seattle-Tacoma, WA (tie)
  8. Washington D.C. (tie)
  9. Portland, OR
  10. Baltimore, MD

And since I know you are just as, if not more curious, America’s…how do I say this politely…least intelligent cities are…

  1. Fresno, CA
  2. Las Vegas, NV
  3. San Antonio, TX
  4. Louisville, KY
  5. Memphis, TN
  6. Harrisburg, PA
  7. Phoenix, AZ
  8. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
  9. Orlando, FL (tie)
  10. Houston, TX (tie)

I will let the creators from The Daily Beast explain the scoring: “Once we had all these comparable, per-capita figures, we ranked the cities in each category, assigning 10 points to those near the very top, and 0 to the bottom, with scores allocated between in a broad bell curve. We then added the totals, and multiplied by two, which made for a perfect score of 200, a wash-out score of 0, and an average score right at 100—close to the exact parameters of a classic IQ test.”

Pretty interesting to see the complete list and see where your city falls.


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