With more than 97% of educators reporting learning loss among their students due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report on 2021’s Most & Least Educated Cities in America, offers important insight.

To determine where the most educated Americans are choosing to settle down, WalletHub compared the 150 largest U.S. metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, across 11 key metrics. The data set ranges from the share of adults aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher to the racial education gap to the quality of the public school system.

Most Educated Cities Least Educated Cities
1. Ann Arbor, MI141. Corpus Christi, TX
2. San Jose, CA142. Ocala, FL
3. Washington, DC143. Salinas, CA
4. San Francisco, CA144. Stockton, CA
5. Madison, WI145. Hickory, NC
6. Boston, MA146. Modesto, CA
7. Durham, NC147. Bakersfield, CA
8. Seattle, WA148. McAllen, TX
9. Austin, TX149. Brownsville, TX
10. Provo, UT150. Visalia, CA

Key Stats

  • The Ann Arbor, MI, metro area has the highest share of bachelor’s degree holders aged 25 and older, 55.90 percent, which is 3.8 times higher than in Visalia, CA, the metro area with the lowest at 14.60 percent.
  • The Worcester, MA, metro area has the highest racial education gap, with the share of black bachelor’s degree holders aged 25 and older at 26.11 percent, compared with 20.78 percent for their white counterparts, a difference of 5.33 percent favoring black people.
  • For comparison, the national average for black people with the same attributes is 13.94 percent and it is 21.27 percent for their white counterparts.
  • The Anchorage, AK, metro area has the highest gender education gap, with the share of female bachelor’s degree holders aged 25 and older at 21.83 percent, compared with 18.42 percent for their male counterparts, a difference of 3.41 percent favoring women.
  • For comparison, the national average for women with the same attributes is 20.12 percent and it is 19.42 percent for their male counterparts.

Are highly educated cities better able to withstand economic shocks?

“Highly educated cities’ are better able to withstand economic shocks only if they have a diversified economy. For instance, New York has suffered at times from an overreliance on industries like finance. If a dominant industry curtails its activities, the economic decline will accelerate. At this moment, midtown Manhattan in New York City with its historic commitment to office space for professional and white-collar workers is facing serious challenges as many companies are shedding real estate in favor of remote staffing. Not only are many of those jobs gone, but the services that supported them are impacted,” said Ann Marcus, a professor at New York University.

“Yes. From the research that I have read, I believe that the cities and states that have these types of people living in their communities have survived and rebounded quicker from the pandemic – far better than others without them,” added Richard H Bauscher, Ed.D. and clinical associate professor at the University of Idaho.

In your opinion, what is the most important step we can take as a country to develop a more educated and skilled workforce?

“To develop a more educated and skilled workforce, one promising economic investment is early childhood education, because we know that this pays off in the long run. On the other end of the P-16 education spectrum, we need to increase access to postsecondary education by increasing the size and availability of federal Pell grants. The dollar value of the Pell grant, which provides tuition assistance for low-income students, has not kept pace with the massive inflation we have seen in postsecondary education costs. Moreover, Pell grants are rarely available to older, non-traditional students who are not economically dependent on their parents and want to upgrade their skills,” said Jennifer L. Steele, Ed.D., and an associate professor at American University.

What will be the short- and longer-term impact of school closures during the pandemic?

“While I believe that many of the impacts as a result of school closures are long-term, one short-term impact would be the shift in communities and students’ lack of social interaction with their peers. During the pandemic, schools were forced to deliver instruction virtually and as a result, many school communities worked towards creating a virtual community that reflected their in-person school community. The reality is that many young people across the nation went weeks to months without familiar social interaction with their peers, which can lead to feelings of loneliness, negative self-esteem, and even depression, which align to long-term impacts as a result of the pandemic,” added Edmund Adjapong, Ph.D. , an assistant professor at Seton Hall University and faculty fellow at Columbia University.

“The K-12 schools show (from their testing data) a decrease in learning which they attribute to the strictly ‘online classes’ that were conducted during this past year. Remediation, summer school tutoring, and…1 on 1 assistance will be of assistance to gain back these knowledge setbacks of our youth,” Bauscher said.

Source: WalletHub