Lexington ranks among the nation’s ‘most-educated’ cities

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Photo by Mark Cornelison | UKphoto

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – For at least the last five years, Kentucky has made a significant push to increase the number of state residents with college degrees and significant skills training.

Now, a new study put Lexington among the 25 ‘smartest’ cities in the country, the best ranking among cities in the region and better than some of its better-known neighbors.

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The state’s efforts have education leaders worried about the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, from fewer students pursuing higher education to the long-term impacts of extended online teaching at all grade levels.

Those short- and long-range ramifications are important because cities and states want to attract highly educated workers to fuel economic growth, business and entrepreneurial expansion, job creation, and tax revenues.

Higher levels of education tend to lead to higher salaries. Plus, the more graduates earn, the more tax dollars they contribute over time, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

In turn, educated people want to live somewhere where they will get a good return on their educational investment. People also tend to marry others of the same educational level, which means cities that already have a large educated population may be more attractive to people with degrees.

It becomes a beneficial cycle that builds on itself.

Not all highly educated people will flock to the same areas, though. Some may prefer to have many people with similar education levels around them for socializing and career connections.

Others may want to be a big fish in a little pond.

Not every city will provide the same quality of life to those with higher education, either. In addition, the most educated cities could shift in the near future depending on how well cities deal with the current COVID-19 crisis and its impact on schooling.

The personal-finance website Wallethub have offered a snapshot of where cities are now, comparing the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas across 11 key metrics.

The analysis looks at diverse factors, including the share of adults aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree, the racial education gap, the quality of the public-school system, and the gender education gap.

According to its report on the 2020’s Most & Least Educated Cities in America, Lexington ranks 25th, the highest of any city in the region.

Home to the University of Kentucky and Transylvania with Eastern Kentucky and a number of other top-rated smaller colleges — Berea, Centre, Georgetown , among them — nearby, plus a reputation for diverse industries and jobs, Lexington continues to grow as an education magnet but also in the arts, entertainment and research.

The next closest is Pittsburgh at 39th, St. Louis at 42nd and Columbus, Ohio, home to Ohio State, at 44th. Cincinnati ranks 53rd, Nashville 57th, and Dayton, Ohio, 68th.

Indianapolis ranks 70th, Louisville 95th, Knoxville, Tenn., 99th, and Huntington, W.Va.-Ashland, Ky. 134th.

Most Educated Cities Least Educated Cities
1. Ann Arbor, MI     141. Fresno, CA
2. San Jose, CA      142. Salinas, CA
3. Washington, DC    143. Ocala, FL
4. Durham, NC        144. Stockton, CA
5. San Francisco, CA 145. Hickory, NC
6. Madison, WI       146. Modesto, CA
7. Boston, MA        147. Bakersfield, CA
8. Seattle, WA       148. McAllen, TX
9. Austin, TX        149. Brownsville, TX
10. Bridgeport, CT   150. Visalia, CA

Key Stats

*     The Ann Arbor, MI, metro area has the highest share of bachelor’s degree holders aged 25 and older, 55.20 percent, which is 3.8 times higher than in Visalia-Porterville, CA, the metro area with the lowest at 14.40 percent.

*     The Modesto, CA, metro area has the highest racial education gap, with the share of black bachelor’s degree holders aged 25 and older at 21.45 percent, compared with 10.74 percent for their white counterparts, a difference of 10.72 percent favoring black people.

*     For comparison, the national average for black people with the same attributes is 13.65 percent and it is 20.92 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 21.41 percent, compared with 18.24 percent for their male counterparts, a difference of 3.18 percent favoring women.

*     For comparison, the national average for women with the same attributes is 19.74 percent and it is 19.13 percent for their male counterparts.